by David Safier
Once again, let me admit that I'm not knowledgeable enough to discuss the details of Arizona's school funding. But I know snake oil when I see it. And G.I. is selling snake oil.
Last night, I put up a statement by LEAN
dissecting the claim by Matthew Ladner and the Goldwater Institute that Arizona spends $9,700 per pupil on education. Here is one of the items Ladner includes in the total, according to LEAN:
Lunch money. The districts have to account for the lunch money from students and the federal lunch program, but these dollars are spent for (you guessed it!): lunches. In the Foothills schools, this money channels through the district office and goes to Sodexho for providing the service. This may not seem like a lot of money in the scheme of things, but in FY 2007-2008, food service money accounted for $346 million dollars in the overall Dept of Education revenue total.
I guess LEAN's statement is true, because Ladner doesn't disagree. Instead, he says in a comment:
Lots of money in the public school system having nothing to do with educating kids? I completely agree with that. That's a problem to be solved, not a condition to be accepted.
So Ladner includes the money parents give to their children go buy lunch as a state expenditure — without shame. He includes free lunches as well. I could accept him disagreeing with the concept of free lunch, but including it in per pupil education funding is pure deception.
Ladner also lumped in money for adult education in his figure, and even he doesn't try to defend that sleight of hand. But rather than correcting himself, he just brushes it aside as unimportant.
Any argument is only as strong as its weakest link, and Ladner's argument broke apart twice. Since I don't question his intelligence, I assume he knew what he was doing each time. That makes all his budget assertions suspect. If he fudged in deceptive figures not once but twice, what else did he include that should have been excluded?
This is what makes G.I. so dangerous and slippery. Most people haven't done enough research to argue with the assertions these people make. I include myself when it comes to budget issues. They know this. So they compare apples and oranges with one hand, cherry pick facts with the other and try to pass it off as truth.
I'll stay in the apples/oranges/cherries metaphorical orchard and promise, I will continue to pick low hanging fruit from G.I's tree of deception in future posts. There's plenty within easy reach.