Use Real School Funding Facts and Tell the Story that Empowers Families

A few weeks ago an article by the I-News Network (“an independent, nonprofit journalism project that creates long-form investigative reports, in partnership with major daily newspapers and has recently accepted significant funding from wealthy Democrat activist Tim Gill”) portrayed Colorado minorities as victims of inadequate tax funding of education:

Regardless of which way the causal arrow runs, poverty and education are intertwined across the range of societal distress. Several experts said the state’s pullback in funding education over the past two decades has narrowed the path for escaping poverty.

Between 1992 and 2010, according to Census data, Colorado plunged from 24th to 40th on overall state spending per student for K-12 education. When compared to per capita personal income, Colorado ranked 45th among the states on K-12 spending.

Today The Gazette in Colorado Springs published a powerful response from my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow:

Yet they neglected to mention the same data show the state’s education spending for each student grew by more than 16 percent in real purchasing power during that span. Most other states happened to increase expenditures even more.

Nor does the Census Bureau offer the only assessment of school expenditure figures. The National Education Association places Colorado at 29th, spending $9,631 for each student enrolled on October 1, 2009. Also left out of the bleak portrait were more recent 2011 numbers from the Colorado Department of Education that show the state’s “current” per-pupil expenditures rest even closer to $10,000.

DeGrow went on to offer solutions that empower families, looking to Florida’s “successful formula” that includes a broad array of school choice. What great timing, given the idea set forth by Florida’s own U.S. Senator Marco Rubio. I’m talking about a federal scholarship tax credit proposal that would expand opportunities for students from low-income families:

The federal proposal has already garnered the support of three progressive-minded parental choice groups – the Black Alliance for Educational Options, the Hispanic Coalition for Reform and Educational Options, and Agudath Israel, a Jewish advocacy organization.

Under Rubio’s bill, both individuals and corporations could donate money to “scholarship granting organizations” in return for tax credits. Individuals could give up to $4,500 a year; corporations, up to $100,000. The bill does not include a cap on the total that could be collected.

The SGO’s, in turn, would award scholarships to students whose household incomes do not exceed 250 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that would equate to $58,875 this year.

You’ll pardon me for being so ecstatic that I’m quoting more than using my own words today. But let’s tie the bow on this one. What am I talking about? The fact that tax credit programs similar to the one Rubio proposes — long in action in places like Florida and Arizona — actually save the state money, too.

More money for each student who chooses to stay in public schools, with more incentive for school leaders to use those funds effectively and more families (including minorities) empowered and engaged in their children’s learning growth. That doesn’t make for as many sad articles with scary statistics, but it does open the doors of opportunity to a brighter future.

Not only do I like the truth and facts, but I like that story’s ending better, too.