NEW STUDY: When it comes to Education, We’re Paying More for Less

One of the greatest lies ever told to the American public – aside from President Obama’s “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan” – is the notion that our public schools are under funded.

A new Cato Institute study, State Education Trends: Academic Performance and Spending over the Past 40 Years, uses adjusted state SAT score averages to track how educational performance trends compare to state spending over the last four decades.   The study’s conclusion is appalling:

The performance of 17-year-olds has been essentially stagnant across all subjects despite a near tripling of the inflation- adjusted cost of putting a child through the K–12 system.

Here is what that trend looks like in Colorado:


Conservatives have been beating this drum for a while, but it’s hard for parents to believe them when the school supply list never gets any shorter and fees keep increasing.

The truth is, too much of the money we send to our schools ends up in administration and not the classrooms.  We saw this debate play out last summer when Democrats tried to pass Amendment 66, a billion dollar tax increase for education.  While the measure failed miserably, it had more to do with the fact that voters were against the billion-dollar tax increase part rather than the spending more money on education part.

But lack of proper funding is clearly not the reason for stagnant results, and it’s time that the mainstream media start calling the Left out when they try to make that claim.


BAD NUMBERS FOR AN INCUMBENT: Less Than Half of Coloradans Believe Hickenlooper Deserves Re-Election

The just-released Quinnipiac University poll shows what we have known all along.  While Coloradans may like Hickenlooper on a quirky, personal level, less than half believe that, with his progressive record, he deserves a second term.

After experiencing Hickenlooper and his liberal record as Governor over the past couple of years, only 45% of Coloradans believe he deserves to be re-elected.  This is a dangerous number for any incumbent, as people who go into election day undecided about who they’d vote for often will break against the incumbent.  The thinking being, “if you had four years to win me over and I’m still not sure I want to vote for you, I should probably just go with the other guy.”

Among the myriad reasons Coloradans are unsure if Hickenlooper deserves a second term are how he has handled education, the death penalty, and gun laws. Hickenlooper’s push for a billion dollar tax increase last November was soundly rejected by Coloradans and may be behind the disapproval (47-39) of his handling of education. This will become more important as we get closer to November as education is the third most important issue for Coloradans. continue…


GRADE INFLATION: Colorado Teachers Blow Away New Evaluation Pilot Program

In Colorado, all of our teachers are above average.  Or at least that’s the take away from the new teacher evaluation pilot program, where 87 to 92 percent of teachers scored proficient across five different evaluation criteria. Recent public school grads in the unemployment line, remedial junior college classes, and their parents’ basements may beg to differ.

This new teacher evaluation system was born out of SB 10-191, the landmark Great Teachers & Leaders Act, designed to ensure that every public school student in Colorado has the benefit of effective teachers and principals, and to help provide a fair and reasonable way to remove unqualified teachers.  The law set forth a system where 50 percent of a teacher’s performance evaluation was based on the professional standards evaluated in the pilot, with the other 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation comprised of student achievement.

And therein lies the issue.  Teachers do not want to be evaluated on the most fundamental output of their industry:  student achievement.  It is no secret that student performance has been lacking, with dismal graduation rates and persistent achievement gaps that cut along racial lines, we are failing our children on a massive scale.

To not focus like a laser on student achievement is a recipe for disaster.  If a business was in a real bind and needed to grow revenue, the first thing that it would look at are the sales numbers, and every employee would be graded on how he contributed to the top line.  Each would be incentivized to take specific steps to increase sales, and other busy work that did not provide a clear path toward that goal would take a back seat.

Here we have teachers clamoring to be graded in categories such as “leadership,” “reflect on practice,” and “establishing an environment.”  While we are sure that these criteria have some role in the professional development of teachers, we need to be more focused on preparing students for careers and college.  It would be nice to see category such as ”impart knowledge in the areas of math, civics, science, and grammar.”

Unfortunately for our public school students, administrators and union leaders will not be as fast to act on ways to improve test scores and college preparedness as they are in gathering signatures for a tax hike to line their own pockets.  We guess they just have other priorities.


BIPARTISAN OPPOSITION: Coalition Fighting The Billion Dollar Tax Hike Launches

At a press conference yesterday, the bipartisan coalition opposing the billion dollar tax hike launched.

Led by former Democratic State Senator Bob Hagedorn, State Treasurer Walker Stapleton, and education reform activist Karin Piper, Coloradans for Real Education Reform (CRER) is the official “No” issue committee for the ballot measure.

Check out their website here.

Reports The Colorado Observer‘s Leslie Jorgensen:

Coloradans for Real Education Reform officially launched their “No on Initiative 22” to fight the tax hike which the opponents assert is a bad investment that falls short of reform.

“With no safeguards in place to keep this money in the classroom, this is a bad investment,” said Colorado Treasurer Walker Stapleton.

“This bipartisan effort centers on the fact we recognize the need for real education reform,” said former Sen. Bob Hagedorn (D-Aurora). “One of the best drivers for improving student achievement is providing broad school choice opportunities, something sorely lacking in Senate Bill 213.”

Whereas the vote on the spending bill attached to the tax hike, SB213, found only party line support among Democrats, the opposition campaign is being spearheaded by a bipartisan coalition of elected leaders.

Former Senator Bob Hagedorn’s opposition is no small deal either. As the Colorado Springs Gazette‘s Megan Schrader reported:

“For the first time in my life, I’m opposing a school tax initiative,” said former state lawmaker Bob Hagedorn, a Democrat who focused on education issues while in office.

Hagedorn said he would like to see more emphasis on providing school choice to parents and funding charter schools at an equal level.

“Senate Bill 213 is a lost opportunity the legislators had,” Hagedorn said.

Supporters of the billion dollar tax increase keep pointing to Ref C as proof that a tax measure can succeed. Unfortunately for them, unlike Ref C, the notable bipartisanship is occurring in opposition to the measure, rather than in support.


TIGHTENING OUR BELTS: Administrative Bloat in CO is Outsized

Various special interest groups throughout Colorado are preparing for battle on a huge income tax increase for Coloradans, but studies show that the administrative bloat in Colorado education has exploded over the past few years.  Perhaps Colorado’s education community should take a page from Colorado’s families and tighten their belts during lean times and prioritize education, not administration.

A study published on February 28, 2013 by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice broke down Colorado’s administrative bloat, and it ain’t pretty:

  • Change in the Number of Students and Administrators and Other Non-Teaching Staff, FY 1992 to FY 2009:
    • Students – 38% increase
    • Administrators – 83% increase
  • Annual Cost Savings if Administrators and Other Non-Teaching Staff Had Increased/Decreased at the Same Rate as Students from FY 1992 to FY 2009: $526,492,634.00
  • Annual Salary Increases per Teacher if Non-Teaching Staff Had Increased/Decreased at the Same Rate as Students from FY 1992 to FY 2009: $10,813.00
  • Ratio of Students to Non-Teaching Staff as Compared to Ratio of Students to Teachers, FY 2009:
    • Ratio of Students to Non-Teaching Staff – 15.20
    • Ratio of Students to Teachers – 16.80
  • Number of Non-Teaching Staff in Excess of the Number of Teachers: 5,182
  • Ratio of Students to Total Public School Staff, FY 2009: 8.00

In case, PeakNation™, the Friedman Foundation sounded a little conservative for your liking, know that these statistics were backed up by the National Center for Education Statistics.  In 2010 (the most recent data available), Colorado was the 15th “top-heaviest” state in the country with just 47.9% of staff as teachers.  For comparison, in 1990, we were the 21st most top-heavy state with 52.6% of staff that were teachers.

It’s worth noting that during this time period, computers were introduced as a way to improve efficiency in organizations.  Well, organizations except for Colorado’s education system, apparently.

At a time when families are struggling and companies throughout Colorado are forced to operate leaner, why is Colorado’s education administration ballooning?  And, why should hardworking families pay more out of their paychecks to support it?


SPENDING PROBLEM: Where Does Colorado Spend its Money?

With Colorado’s state and local government spending outpacing population growth and inflation, the question becomes where does all of Colorado’s revenue go? How is Colorado spending its money?  Fortunately, has broken down Colorado’s state and local spending into categories for us.  The categories include: pensions, health care, education, defense (the web site cites Colorado’s state and local spending in this category as zero), welfare, protection, transportation, general government, other spending, and interest.  Here is a chart of Colorado’s 2012 spending.



Transparency for Higher Ed Struggles, Bears Fruit in K-12

Published on April 30, 2012 by

A couple months ago I noted that Colorado's education transparency train was rolling forward. While the locomotive hasn't been derailed, since that time the engineer has pulled the brakes a couple times. HB 1118, the open union negotiations bill, was sent to its death in a Democratic-controlled Senate committee. Meanwhile, Rep. B.J. Nikkel's higher education transparency bill — HB 1252 — has spent many weeks accumulating dust while the session clock quickly approaches midnight.

But just within the past few days Coloradans have been reminded why having the sunshine is so important. Witness the latest investigative report from 7News' John Ferrugia and Arthur Kane:

In a time of tight budgets, teacher layoffs and increased fees, school districts are still spending money on expensive meals, teacher parties and even gift cards, a CALL7 “You Paid For It” investigation found.

CALL7 Investigators reviewed check registers and credit card databases for the major metro school districts and found thousands of dollars spent on a public relations consultant, gift cards, staff parties and meals at top restaurants. While the totals would never fix the districts' budget deficits, the spending shows that administrators are not cutting potentially wasteful at the time many schools are cutting education resources.

Typical of the genre, the story features a couple “Aha” moments in which local school district administrators have a hard time trying to justify some questionable expenditures. Metro area voters who may have to decide a number of local school tax initiatives this fall might be none the wiser if not for such investigative work.

It's important then to remember that a 2010 law requiring significant online financial transparency from Colorado school districts really made this story possible. A local news agency conceivably could have used the Colorado Open Records Act to uncover some or all of the information featured in the report. However, it would be difficult to generate the “probable cause” needed to spend even more resources and man-hours on an investigation.

The Independence Institute was at the forefront of the call for school spending transparency in 2009 and in 2010. More recently, my former intern Devan Crean and I were able to shine the spotlight on how well (or how poorly) local K-12 agencies were complying with Colorado's Public School Financial Transparency Act. In the immediate aftermath of that report, we heard from several school districts eager to fix their shortcomings.

Let's be clear. The results of neither the 7News investigation nor our 2011 issue paper necessarily indicate some sort of concerted effort among local education agencies to hide their financial activities. Jeffco Public Schools, a district featured in the article for a concerning apparent conflict of interest, actually posted a searchable spending database before the 2010 law was adopted. While transparency may sometimes prevent problems from occurring, in large bureaucracies it often may only help to show the problem is there.

On the other hand, my colleague Amy Oliver has found evidence that indicates why some higher education officials have lobbied this year against transparency legislation. Nine days remain until the end of the legislative session, and HB 1252 finally is scheduled to be heard tomorrow by House Appropriations. The likelihood of both passing the House and speeding through the Senate at this point seems like a daunting challenge.

The fight to preserve and expand government sunshine is ongoing. In spite of setbacks, we need to keep urging Colorado's education transparency train forward to make some more progress. And soon. If you can't defend it, don't spend it!


CLASS, THY NAME IS KEITH KING: State Senator To Focus On Education After Reapportionment Shanking

State Senator Keith King is not seeking re-election after being shanked in the back by the Democrats on the Reapportionment Commission, who forced him into the same district as Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman. But Senator King is a class act, compared to the cowards on Reapportionment who didn't want a fair fight at the ballot box. 

Rather than throw in the towel on public policy, Senator King has announced his intention to keep fighting for the cause most near and dear to him: education.

In a statement, he added:

"I am disappointed that the Democrats intentionally grouped two senators together in El Paso County. I will not give them the satisfaction of watching close colleagues primary each other in the 2012 elections.

For this reason I will not seek re-election and will support our Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman in his election efforts in the new Senate 12 District. Bill is a good legislator and a close friend. I am looking forward to serving with him in the upcoming session.”

As Lynn Bartels notes over at The Spot, Senator King has been a leading voice on education issues for many years at the Capitol. He has also been a long-time leader in education reform outside politics, playing major roles, from principal to board member, at a number of charter schools in Colorado Springs.

If Democrats really cared about education outside political talking points, they wouldn't have "Mario-Mandered" Senator King out of his district. 

Thankfully for Colorado, Keith King won't let that stop him from continuing to fight to make schools in Colorado better for our children.

Class, thy name is Keith King.


Columbus, New Mexico

Published on July 13, 2011 by

It's hard to believe that American taxpayers are funding the education of children living in Mexico.

From Wikipedia,,_New_Mexico, I learned the following:

Students from Columbus and Puerto Palomas, Chihuahua Mexico attend Columbus Elementary from pre-school up to sixth grade. Students then move on to attend Red Mountain Middle School (6-8) in Deming, NM. Hofacket Mid-High School (9-12), and Deming High School(9-12).[6]

Deming Public Schools buses students residing in Mexico from the United States-Mexico border to Columbus Elementary .[7]

Yet, our president tells us the border is as secure as ever!




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