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Education as an export/import business

Thu, Jun 3, 2010

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Conventional wisdom: Tax-averse states that fail to adequately fund public elementary, secondary, and higher education will fall behind their peers. Superb public education creates the educated workforce so necessary to economic success.

Statistics 101: Colorado is a little better at funding education than southern backwaters such as Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi, but we’re still down there with the bottom feeders. Metrics that focus on student achievement and educational outcomes put us, at best, in the middle of the pack.

Statistics 102: We’re one of the best-educated states in the country, as measured by percentage of residents who hold college or advanced degrees.

Conclusion: We’re no fools – we let taxpayers in other states educate our workforce.

Colorado is attractive by reason of its natural beauty (no maintenance cost, and the Feds pick up the bills for suppressing forest fires), its climate (again cost – free), and its low taxes. People want to live here, and we want them here – as long as they’re already well-educated.

Colorado’s K-12 funding may be comparatively low, but local school districts can pick up the slack via bond issues. Voters in D-12 and D-20, for example, have agreed to fund superb facilities, while voters in less affluent districts are often reluctant to support property tax increases. In practice, the well-behaved, educable children of the educated upper middle class get good schools with good teachers, while less fortunate kids make do with hand-me-downs. Higher education is even less available to the financially challenged, thanks to vanishing state funding. Our unstated goal is to import high achieving folks from other states, and encourage the semi-educated products of our own educational system to find employment elsewhere.

So who will do the work that the educated elites disdain? Hard-working immigrants from other countries, whether here legally or not.

As public policy, ours is wonderfully cynical. It’s predatory, lucrative and amoral. How, one wonders, did our quarrelsome politicos and capricious voters come up with a system so perfectly beneficial, self-sustaining, and ingenious?

Was it accidental? Of course! But nothing happens without a reason. Fortune has smiled upon us, and that’s fine.

As Shakespeare put it in Julius Caesar: “There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.”

So let’s leave the shallows and miseries to other states, and continue upon our profitable course.

We close with the words of another great English poet, Roger Waters.

“We don’t need no education … Hey! Teacher! Leave them kids alone.”

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