Colorado’s madcap Lefties over at ProgressNow have taken their disingenuous use of statistics to a new level today, with a press release “responding” to Governor Owens’ State of the State speech, sent out within minutes of its conclusion. I have yet to find a copy of the release on their Web site but have pasted the email message below, followed by a response to their egregious selectiveness and gross mishandling of K-12 education statistics (that’s my area of expertise – I’ll let others dismantle their other assertions):
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JANUARY 12, 2006
CONTACT: Michael Huttner 303-931-4547
The Real State of the State under seven years of Governor Owens
DENVER – Research and facts below from independent sources show a much different picture of Colorado than those Governor Owens portrayed in his State of the State today.
“Governor Owens showed tremendous leadership in coming to the table and helping pass Referendum C,” stated Michael Huttner, Executive Director of ProgressNow.org, the largest grassroots organization in Colorado. “But seven years of Owens’ governorship has dug a deep hole for Colorado’s health care and small businesses. How we invest the additional Referendum C money will determine whether we can dig out of that hole,” noted Huttner.
# # #
Below are facts on the Real State of the State from his seven years as Governor:
The non-partisan Governing Magazine graded Colorado with an overall C+ for 2005, largely based on the executive branches’ performance. 1
High Unemployment & Job Loss:
Colorado unemployment rate recently increased up to 5.0% in the latest report 2 and has increased from 3.2% when Owens took office in Spring of 1999.
Colorado ranks 2nd in the number of jobs lost between March 2001 – Jan. 2004. The only state that did worse was Massachusetts 3, and the latest recovery still trails neighboring states. 4
Colorado still has fewer jobs and a higher unemployment rate than before the beginning of the recession in 2001. 5
Loss of Economic Momentum:
In 2000, Colorado ranked 1st out of the 50 states in economic momentum, in 2003, Colorado dropped to 40th, the greatest decline of any single state, the latest study shows slight increase but still well below the national average.6
Colorado’s economic growth is behind most of the Rocky Mountain Region and the country, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.7
Colorado ranks 49th in personal income growth. 8
Colorado is 46th worst for federal grant money received per capita in 2004, the highest percent decrease of any state. 9
Record Bankruptcies and Foreclosures:
Over 43,000 filed bankruptcy in Colorado in 2005, shattering the 2004 record. 10
Colorado has the highest foreclosure rate in the country with one foreclosure for every 681 households. 11
Rise of Children in Poverty:
The number of children in poverty has risen from 10% in 2000 to 15% in 2004, the latest report on this issue.12
Low Grade and Rankings on Education:
Education Week rates Colorado a C+ for its efforts to improve its schools according to its 10th annual report released last week.13
Colorado ranks 49th in the percent of total state wealth that we devote to public schools.14
Colorado ranks 44th worst in the number of public schools that offer a federally subsidized breakfast for students from low-income families.15
Colorado ranks 40th in per pupil spending nationwide16-that’s about 10% below the national average. 17 [emphasis added]
Colorado ranks 47th worst in higher education appropriations per capita in the nation. 18
High Drop-Out and Low Graduation Rates:
Colorado ranks 48th in dropout rates nationwide (two from the bottom)19 and rose from 3.0% in 1999 to 3.8% in 2004. 20
Colorado ranks 31st among the 50 states in terms of high school graduation rates, according to a 2003 report by the Manhattan Institute. 21 [emphasis added]
The number of teens not attending school and not working has increased from 6% in 2000 to 9% in the latest report. 22
Low rankings on Health Care:
Colorado ranks 48th worst in the nation for the percentage of low-income children without health care. 23
Colorado will have 750,000 people who will go the entire year without health insurance — And 500,000 with interrupted coverage. 24
Colorado now ranks 28th in access to prenatal care. 25
According to the National Immunization Survey, Colorado ranks last in the nation, with 63 percent of its 2-year-olds fully immunized. 26
Low birth-weight babies has increased from 8.6% in 1998 to 8.9% in the latest report 27, while the US average was 7.8%.
Colorado ranks near the bottom of the nation for 12-month home-price appreciation. 28
Ineffective Use of Energy:
Colorado ranks third in the nation in untapped energy efficiency potential according to the Alliance to Save Energy. 29
Poor Arts Investments:
In fiscal year 2005, Colorado ranked 48th worst in the nation in terms of per-capita state investment in the arts. 30
For interviews, documentation or additional statistics on the Real State of the State under Governor Bill Owens, please call Michael Huttner at 303-931-4547 or visit www.ProgressNow.Org.
1 Government Performance Project, 2005 (www.governing.com/gpp/2005)
2 Colorado Dept. of Labor, December 16, 2005 and the Pueblo Chieftain, March 13, 2000
3 Bureau of Labor stats, March 17, 2004
4 RMN, April 7, 2005 p. 1B
5 Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, Kathy White, quoted by Public News Service, December 22, 2004.
6State Policy Research Inc., Governing Sourcebook 2003, pg. 6 (see full report at Governing.com) and
Denver Post, July 12, 2005 p. c4
7 Denver Post, Svaldi, Dec. 16, 2004
8 RMN March 6, 2004
9 Rocky Mountain News, Dec. 27, 2005, p5A
10 RMN, December 23, 2005, 1B
11 PR Newswire, Realtytrac.com, December 19, 2005
12 KidsCount Survey, Annie E. Casey Foundation (www.aecf.org)
13 RMN, January 8, 2006
14 RMN October 8, 2004
15 Rocky Mountain News, December 14, 2005, p. 37A
16 Education Week
17 U.S. Dept of Education
18 Center for the Study of Education Policy. See http://ncforum.org/doclib/presentations/collateral/ Graphs/2004_highereducationappropriations_percapita.pdf
19 Anne E. Casey Foundation Kids Count 2004 and RMN July 14, 2005, p. 5A
20 Manhattan Inst. Quoted by RMN April 22, 2004
21 Manhattan Inst. Quoted by RMN April 22, 2004
22 KidsCount Survey (www.aecf.org)
23 Keystone Research Center Report as cited in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Oct. 27, 2005 and Fort Collins Coloradoan, Feb 21, 2005, p. 8A
24 Colorado Statesman, December 3, 2004
25 The Oregonian, November 3, 2005, p. B6
26 Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Denver Post, October 2, 2005 p. E1
27 KidsCount Survey (www.aecf.org)
28 Chicago Tribune, December 17, 2005, p. 11
29 Denver Post, January 5, 2006
30 Denver Post, July 4, 2005, p F-5
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I know their footnotes make their claims seem daunting and impressive, but let’s undress their claims about K-12 education one by one.
1) “Education Week rates Colorado a C+ for its efforts to improve its schools according to its 10th annual report released last week.” What they don’t tell you is that if Colorado heeded the cries of union and education interest groups to weaken CSAPs and state accountability, and to undermine the charter school law, that grade would go DOWN. Without Gov. Owens’ work on promoting measures of accountability and choice, Colorado would have a lower grade than C+. The madcap Lefties also neglect to mention that the average state score is a C+ and that no state got as high as an A- on the report. Louisiana finished first with a B+, and six states secured a B grade (four of the seven spend less per pupil than Colorado does).
The 2006 Quality Counts survey released by Education Week uses a formula to measure a state’s educational progress in four major areas – 1) standards and assessments; 2) efforts to improve teacher quality; 3) school climate; and 4) resource equity. I don’t need to rehash how this works since Krista Kafer at Backbone America explained the report and Colorado’s ranking so well. Suffice it to say, a lot of the report undermines their larger agenda.
2) “Colorado ranks 49th in the percent of total state wealth that we devote to public schools.” This carries a three-part fallacy, despite the citation of a 2004 newspaper article as impeccable proof. First, the measurement is of per-pupil funding as a percentage of per capita gross income, not wealth. They can talk to someone who took an economics class to figure out the difference.
Second, the measurement of per-pupil funding as a percentage of per capita gross income implies that the more money you earn the more you should spend on education programs. Americans living in the Northeast spend a smaller portion of their income on food than Americans living in the South (look at the U.S. Department of Labor’s Consumer Expenditure Survey). Does this mean people living in Boston are more malnourished than those living in Atlanta? No, of course not. Draw the analogy to spending on education, and you’ll see the use of this statistic is little more than a tool of guilt. And of course, the statistic also implies that total spending somehow meaningfully correlates with academic results – which it doesn’t.
Third, the ranking cited is outdated. Even if you ignored the last point about the statistic’s credibility, the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that Colorado ranks 45th.
3) “Colorado ranks 44th worst in the number of public schools that offer a federally subsidized breakfast for students from low-income families.” This is based on a report published by the Food Research and Action Center, a group that lobbies for more funding of lunch programs and is subsidized in part by the National Education Association. The statistic says nothing about the number of breakfasts offered versus the number of breakfasts needed, and raises the question of how many kids really can’t get a halfway decent breakfast at home before coming to school (and who is raising the kids?). Not to mention the statement that Colorado “ranks 44th worst” means it’s actually 7th best. I guess it’s a matter of perspective.
4) “Colorado ranks 40th in per pupil spending nationwide-that’s about 10% below the national average.” If you read that statement and listen closely, you can almost hear your favorite game show’s buzzer sound followed by the host saying, “I’m sorry – that’s incorrect.” How convenient to cite the C+ grade from Quality Counts 2006 in their first “statistic” but try to use a ranking generated from the 2005 version of the survey. Do they not want to credit Owens for improving the state from 40th to 37th by their measurements?
Those who would choose to cite the 37th ranking instead (which just must not make the state sound like such a miserable place) should note that the figure measured a) excludes capital construction and debt financing costs; b) is adjusted according to a “cost-of-education index” based on 1993-94 economic data and also includes subjective factors like a school district’s preference for employee characteristics; and c) is adjusted according to the number of poor children as measured by the census bureau, regardless of whether these students are being served by the public schools or any school at all.
The National Center for Education Statistics for 2002-03 (the most recent comparative data available) ranks Colorado at 26th in total per-pupil spending at $8,917. On that note, wouldn’t it also be nice if the madcap Lefties included actual figures instead of rankings? Hey, did you know that the government schools spend more than $9,000 a child in Colorado… and look at what they’re accomplishing!
Finally, Colorado’s per-pupil spending is about 5% below the national average, not 10% – as if the national average were such an admirable goal, or even mattered.
5) “Colorado ranks 48th in dropout rates nationwide (two from the bottom) and rose from 3.0% in 1999 to 3.8% in 2004.” and “Colorado ranks 31st among the 50 states in terms of high school graduation rates, according to a 2003 report by the Manhattan Institute.” I lumped these together because they both cite the work of the Manhattan Institute, a free market think tank that debunks so much else of what ProgressNow has to say, it’s almost laughable. How desperate they must have been to cite Manhattan for convenience sake! The exception is the “48th in dropout rates” number which I’ve never seen or heard of, and which I couldn’t find by tracing their footnoted source. The Kids Count Survey that the link leads to shows Colorado ranks 32nd, much more similar to the Manhattan number they quoted. So which is it, folks: 31st or 48th? Puh-lease.
Suggestion to ProgressNow: do some real research rather than attempting to dress up cheap propaganda to support your agenda.