Somebody's Got to Expose the Tax Hikers' "49th in Education Funding" Deception

Some may look at the Fourth of July as an occasion to celebrate an important event in ancient history (hey, it’s ancient to me, ok?). But this year in Colorado, it also provided the opportunity to relive a different kind — a more frustrating kind — of history. I’m talking about the need to debunk a phony statistic… again. Once upon a time it may have been a real but misleading figure; today it’s a complete fabrication. Where’s the shame?

As a Complete Colorado original editorial shows, proponents of the billion dollar tax increase have dredge up the “49th in education funding” canard to pitch their initiative:

It started seven years ago with his Independence Institute publication “Counting the Cash” (also updated in 2008), which showed how the already-outdated “49th” statistic measured spending as a share of personal income. One of the best ways to increase Colorado’s ranking would be to banish some of the highest earners from the state. If you go by that same logic today, we fall at either 43rd or 47th. “Counting the Cash” also identified at least 10 different states that year which claimed to be 49th in education funding. On his own blog, DeGrow debunked the fallacy in 2007 and in 2008. The Institute’s Ed Is Watching blog stepped up to demolish the myth in 2009, and again in 2012.

Hey, that’s me! Ahem, I mean, aren’t they paying attention? Those who ignore the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them, right? Well, not exactly. Given the lack of confidence inspired by previous campaigns, they may have adopted a desperate strategy of tell voters whatever you have to say to scare them into signing on the dotted line. The “49th in education spending” line worked to pull Amendment 23 across the finish line in 2000, though that didn’t hit taxpayer wallets so directly and tangibly as the current “Initiative 22” seeks to do. Even if the number is outdated, the approach of using 49th to conjure up some hopeful past smacks of cynical manipulation.

Is it just me, or does anyone else out there find it ironic that the tax hike supporters at Colorado Commits are appealing to a base ignorance to collect more money for education? (For a better and more impassioned discussion of this topic, please listen to my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow’s guest host radio monologue on AM 1310 KFKA today.)

Should I be concerned that not enough informed citizens out there have been properly educated? Perhaps. As we learn more and more about the effects of the tax proposal (and my Independence Institute friends are sure to be on the ball) to go along with the lack of genuine reform that’s supposed to be funded by the additional tax dollars, we may learn why proponents have sunk to the low level of dishonesty to make their case.

Color me less than impressed. I find it more enjoyable to wave the Red, White, and Blue of Independence Day than to expose the “Green” of education funding deception. But sometimes a blogging prodigy’s go to do what a blogging prodigy’s got to do.