We are a blog, not a newspaper, so we will leave it to someone else to confirm whether there are two Michael Arnolds in Douglas County in a heated dispute about the impact of the economy on government services in Douglas County, or whether there is one Michael Arnold who is indulging in a very public argument with himself.

Either way the conflicting statements from the person or persons named Michael Arnold in Douglas County shows just how silly the union-bred attacks on Douglas County schools really are. 

The backstory here comes courtesy of friends of school reform in Douglas County. The AFL-CIO created “Douglas County Classrooms” sent out a newsletter recently with their usual crap about why Douglas County School District, widely regarded as the best in Colorado, is dog meat. The unions need Douglas County voters to believe their school system is terrible (even though all measures show the opposite is true) so they can throw out the school board later this year, and install one of their cronies who will put the AFL-CIO back on the taxpayer dime.

In the union newsletter, there is a lengthy column from one Michael Arnold, who, in full embrace of the AFL-CIO’s attack DougCo strategy, tries to diminish the success of the District by chalking up the success of students to the strength of the economy and the prosperity of the community:

“The high academic achievement the board takes credit for is due more to family background than board policy. It is well established that higher socio-economic status (SES) students generally do better academically than their counterparts from low-SES homes.”

Nevermind this from The Colorado Observer, which shows that Douglas County is more succesful than districts than Districts that are equally or more affluent than Douglas County Schools:

[An] analysis [by Schooldigger.com] ranked Douglas County Schools top among the state’s largest school districts for 2011-2012, three slots ahead of Littleton Schools, eight slots ahead of Boulder Valley RE2, 13 slots ahead of Cherry Creek Schools, and 29 higher than Jefferson County Schools. 

No, don’t pay any attention to that for the time being. Rather consider Michael Arnold’s statements in the union newsletter, where he writes off all that is good in DougCo schools as the sole result of prosperity and a strong local economy, to the directly contradictory statements from a man also named Michael Arnold, head of suicide prevention in Douglas County, who attributed a recent surge in the suicide rate in Douglas County to…hold the line…financial pressures and a bad economy.

This, from The Denver Post, under the headline “Suicides rise in wealthier Douglas, Arapahoe Counties“:

So why the increase in (suicides in) Douglas and Arapahoe counties? 

It could be that the two — which are more affluent counties in the region — have experienced greater population growth compared with other counties and may be now experiencing the effects of the slumping economy, experts say. 

“In Douglas County, there’s a lot of financial pressures on families,” said Mike Arnold, chairman of the Douglas County Suicide Prevention Alliance. “Someone loses a job, loses a home, and the family falls apart. It just gets too be unbearable for some people.”

Are you following along here?

Michael Arnold #1 says that DougCo Schools are great for no reason other than the fact that DougCo’s economy is great and prosperity abounds. 

But Mike Arnold #2 sees it all differently, making Doulgas County sound as if it is a wasteland of struggle which is the reason for the county’s startling increase in suicide rates. 

Is this the same Michael Arnold? Is this the same Douglas County? 

How to reconcile these views?

The truth is that Michael Arnold’s (or Michael Arnolds’) competing view points expose the idiocy of the myth that Douglas County schools are good only because some higher percentage of students are well off.

In the same period that financial upheaval contributed to a stark uptick in the number of suicides, Douglas County schools’ graduation rate soared to 87%. In other words, even during difficult socio-economic times, even as the State Legislature was slashing its annual school funding budget, DougCo’s performance was on the rise. As a point of comparison Denver Public Schools’ graduation rate is 56%. 

Accident? Not on your life. DougCo schools continue to improve in the middle of tough times because it is one of the best schools with the best teachers pushing the boldest reforms in the state.

Saying Douglas County’s schools are only excellent because the local economy is good ignores the fact that DougCo outperforms other district’s encompassing populations that are just as well or better off financially.

It also ignores the fact that Douglas County schools markedly improved even at a time when…in the words of Mike Arnold…”there’s a lot of financial pressures on families; someone loses a job, loses a home, and the family falls apart.” 

We agree with that Mike Arnold, which makes DougCo schools contuing progress that much more impressive. Times were tough, and DougCo schools did improve.

Excuses are like butt holes — everyone has one, and they all stink. The same could be said of union attacks on Douglas County schools.

For more info explanation see the contradictory statements of Mike Arnold(s).