Foiled Again? Colorado School Finance Project Data Summary Skews Story

The Colorado School Finance Project (COSFP) has released its latest batch of funding data. Thanks to this morning’s Ed News Colorado brief for bringing it to my attention. Guess who gets to play the foil? Yours truly:

The conservative Independence Institute, which has a different philosophy about education spending than does the project, argues that school spending has risen consistently during the early part of the decade. See this recent blog post for their take on things.

In case you skipped the link, “this recent blog post” is a hat tip to little old Eddie. But it’s more than an argument to observe “that school spending has risen consistently” until the past couple years. It’s what the numbers say. (If you want to go check them yourself, the data all come from the Colorado Department of Education (CDE).)

Meanwhile, COSFP says that Colorado spent $7,336,480,650 on “current” operating expenditures in 2010-11. Where did they get that number from? Ed News declares that they “compiled the report from state Department of Education data.” Yet CDE lists statewide 2010-11 current expenditures at $8,270,872,778. Then again, maybe I’m too uptight. After all, what’s $934.4 million among friends?

Except that it leads COSFP to say our state only spent $8,086 per student in 2010-11. CDE places current expenditures above $10,000 per full-time student. Total expenditures per full-time student come in at just over $12,000. But that’s not a statistic to which COSFP brings even the least bit of attention. Argument from silence, perhaps?

What really gets me, though, is COSFP’s unoriginal use of the rising national average in per-pupil spending as a straight line. Aren’t we past that misleading tactic? Last month I praised COSFP for taking the honest approach of accurately depicting the state and national spending increases over time.

Here we go again. The best thing I can say is that at least they’re not the Maine teachers union contradicting their own data. Time to share some remedial education? Rats, foiled again.