I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, July 4, 2010


It runs rampant in the NJ press corps: take Crazy Old Uncle Paul:
Was McKeon aware, I asked, that spending on public schools in California has risen 50 percent in real dollars since Prop 13 was enacted in 1978? He ducked that question as well.
Dear lord, that's dumb: what was the increase in student population during that time?!?

And then he does this:
The per-pupil cost of education in New Jersey is up more than 300 percent in real dollars since 1978. .
So you use per-pupil spending for New Jersey, but total spending for California?!?

Honestly, what kind of an editor lets such a glaring flaw into his or her newspaper? This is the kind of an error that would result in an instant "F" in any Statistics 101 course.

In case you're wondering: statewide enrollment for CA in 1978 was 4.2 million. It was 6.3 in 2008. An almost 50% increase. (It took me about 10 minutes to find this, Paul.)

No wonder our dialog and policies in this state are so screwed up.

UPDATE: One thing that newspapers could do to catch up with the 21st Century would be to force their writers to give sources. Above is a good case in point - where did Mulshine get this data?

Because the more I look at it, the less sense it makes. CA essentially spent the same per pupil over the last 30 years, while NJ spending rose 300%? How could that possibly be right?

Since Mulshine is not required by the modern laws of journalism to give his sources, I went to the NCES to look at historic trends in per-pupil spending:

Current expenditure per pupil in fall enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools, by state or jurisdiction: 
1979-80 - California: 6,072; New Jersey: 7,705 
2006-07 - California: 9,283; New Jersey: 16,762
So CA did increase per-pupil spending by about 50%. But NJ increased it by 120% - not even close to 300%.

Now, we can sit here and have an honest debate about that. What were the outcomes? What about regional economic variations? Tom Kean put forward an initiative to pay teachers more in 1984; what happened then?

But If Mulshine is going to put forth statistics that contradict established sources, he'd better tell us what they are. And he'd better start demanding better of himself when slinging numbers around in his columns.

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