Debunking “49th in education spending” Colorado Fallacy … Once Again

In a story about the new $18 billion state budget signed by Gov. Bill Ritter, a local Fox TV news station reporter stated:

In education spending, the State of Colorado ranks 49th.

Of course, this sentence is suspect from the start, because it doesn’t tell us whether it’s measuring higher education or K-12 education.

If the article is referring to K-12 education, then it wasn’t true two years ago, it wasn’t true last year, and it isn’t true this year, either.

There are two reliable sources for K-12 education funding data. First, Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau show Colorado ranks 36th in “current” per-pupil spending. The lowest possible ranking that could be devised shows Colorado at 47th in spending per $1,000 of personal income. Yet this comparison presumes the richer a state is the more it needs to spend.

The U.S. Department of Education ranks Colorado 35th in “current” per-pupil spending, and 26th in “total” per-pupil spending.

Other sources, like Governing magazine and the National Education Association, consistently have ranked Colorado near the middle in per-pupil K-12 education spending.

My guess is that the reporter was trying to refer to K-12 education, because the scaremongers typically say Colorado ranks 48th in higher education spending, not 49th. Even so, Mark Hillman debunked that claim last year:

Harmonizing with the choir crying poverty for colleges and universities, CFPI ranks Colorado 48th in higher education spending. Governing places us 26th, again right at the middle and just behind California. Moreover, the share of Colorado’s population enrolled in higher ed is well above average, suggesting that we’re getting good value and that affordability isn’t a significant barrier.

The reporter should have listed her source for the 49th claim.


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