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“Great Caesar’s Ghost!”: Exposing Knee-Jerk Tax Increases “For the Children” January 24, 2008

Posted by bendegrow in Colorado Governor, Property tax increase, statewide, TABOR.
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On the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel site, Rick Wagner takes a club to the constant screams of interest groups for more money to fund K-12 education. Most amusing was this hypothetical dialogue and subsequent comment:

Government: “There’s a crisis in education. Something must be done immediately! The children’s achievement level is shocking. All that can be known with certainty is that it has nothing to do with my prior policies and the only solution is more money.”

Taxpayer: “Is that really the solution? Maybe we should look at our methods first.”

Government: “Great Caesar’s Ghost man! There is no time for that. We need money now! Why do you hate children?”

When we pursue questions about why achievement is so lacking, we are usually rewarded with a discussion having something to do with Bush, TABOR, Reagan, evil conservatives and tax cuts for the wealthy.

The actual problem in Colorado is that we have a system under the disastrous Amendment 23 that requires increased education funding no matter what the result. How many successful systems exist that are premised on a continuous increase in resources unrestricted by results?

It’s an important reminder that lawmakers and bureaucrats have an easier time accessing the taxpayer’s pocketbook when they frame the issue in the interest of schools and children. It worked for Amendment 23. More recently, Gov. Ritter did just that with his statewide property tax increase, but didn’t even bother to ask the voters as the state constitution requires.

Of course, our schools need some amount of resources to function well. But seldom if ever do you see any serious ideas about restructuring the education system to ensure money is spent with a high level of efficiency. The results are there to show that spending more has very little or no relationship with academic performance or growth.

Yet as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow, you can expect cries for more money based on some calculation that compares our state to the national average of education spending in some area or another. Is the national average of educational performance better than in Colorado? Not exactly. Well, then, somebody has got some explaining to do.

Colorado spends more than $9,000 per student in our K-12 public schools. Is the money really being spent as wisely as it could be, if we just had the political will to fix the system? The sad answer is it takes less political will to cajole a little more money from each of us than to do the hard work of reform.

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