Losing the charter school debate? Just invent some numbers
There’s a joke among policy researchers that if you can’t find the numbers to support your conclusion just make some up. 642 sounds nice. 432,396 looks impressive in many cases. How about 100 million? Now that’s a nice round number.
But it’s distressing when the invent-a-number game goes beyond humor and is used in the public debate over serious issues, like whether Initiative 1240 to allow charter schools would help struggling school children.
Last week in The Seattle Times, Mari Taylor, an official with the Washington State School Directors Association (WSSDA), said Initiative 1240 would cost $100 million. This $100 million figure is totally false, pulled out of thin air.
The Office of Financial Management in Olympia estimates Initiative 1240’s plan to create 40 charters schools over five years would cost about $3 million. All other funding would come from existing education spending, money that students are already receiving. Still, Ms. Taylor’s $100 million figure is being cited in mailers that charter school opponents are sending to thousands of households in Seattle.
In any case, whether or not Initiative 1240 passes, education spending is still going up.
Officials have increased education funding by over $3 billion in the last 10 years, from $7.01 billion in 2002 to $10.24 billion today.
As a result, they have increased per-student spending by $2,900, from $7,330 in 2002 to over $10,200 today.
The legislature enacted a $653 million increase in education spending in the current budget compared to the last one, rising from $12.99 billion in 2009-11 to $13.64 billion in 2011-13.
This is an effort to scare people into thinking Initiative 1240 will cut public education. Actually the Initiative would create a limited school program that would operate entirely within the public education system.
For more on charter public schools see our “Citizen’s Guide to Initiative 1240,” our “Guide to Major Charter Studies,” and our “An Option for Learning: An Assessment of Student Achievement in Charter Public Schools.”
Reasonable people can debate the merits of charters schools and whether we should allow them in Washington, but let’s at least use real numbers.