Dismantling The Post-Dispatch’s Piece About Education (Part 1 of 4)
After reading “Reality of school funding in Missouri? It gets worse every year” by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board, I’m left with one conclusion: The board should stay out of the number-crunching business. The piece is so riddled with errors, faulty assumptions, and half-truths that it will take multiple posts to address all of them. So, that is exactly what I am going to do.
Fallacy 1: Percent of general revenue spent on education is the most important comparison
It’s one thing to make bold claims that you can back up. It’s another thing entirely to make a bold claim that you yourself probably don’t actually agree with.
The Post-Dispatch editorial board stated the “amount of general revenue dollars the state is investing in schools, compared to how much money they spend on everything else” is the most important comparison.
You would be hard-pressed to find anyone else who agrees with this sentiment. Would the editors be fine with a tax cut that led to across-the-board cuts to every spending program, as long as the percent of the pie spent on education increases? Not likely. In fact, the editors deride policymakers for passing a “bill that cuts Missouri’s already very low taxes even lower, thus starving the schools of future revenue.”
It seems obvious that the Post-Dispatch editorial board cares about the percent of the pie spent on education and the size of the pie.
Nevertheless, the editors continue with their overemphasis of the “slice of the pie” analogy and make an incorrect statement: “In fact, as a percentage of the overall general revenue pie, the slice devoted to education has been shrinking since 2002.” They note that in 2002, the state spent 37 percent of general revenue on education. The budget for 2014 calls for 35 percent to be spent on education. They claim this is a “historic” low. But, the historic low that the Post-Dispatch is reporting doesn’t really seem that historic. In fact, in 2010, education was just 32 percent of the budget and in 2011, it was just 34.73 percent of the budget.
On this matter, the Post-Dispatch was simply wrong, and there is more of that to come.