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Hanushek Connection: Lobato Testimony, Funding Research, Waiting for “Superman”

It’s been a couple weeks since I chimed in on Colorado’s Lobato school funding trial — in particular on the dubious $115,000 taxpayer-underwritten study proclaiming that our state’s K-12 education system is inadequately funded. Well, believe it or not, the District Court hearing is still going on. After the case seemingly has dropped off most of the local media’s radar, Ed News Colorado’s Todd Engdahl continues the fine work of providing daily updates from the courtroom, including the latest:

“There’s no consistent relationship between school resources and school achievement,” Hoover Institution scholar Eric Hanushek testified Thursday in the Lobato v. State school funding case.

Hanushek, a nationally known researcher on the economics of education, is the key expert witness for the state as it seeks to counter the plaintiffs’ claim that Colorado’s school funding system doesn’t adequately meet the education requirements of the state constitution.

Questioned by Senior Assistant Attorney General Carey Markel, Hanushek added, “Money certainly matters; you can’t run a school without money.” But, he added, “How you spend money is more important than how much … In general, you can’t expect any large achievement gains without changing the way you spend.”

Took the words right out of my mouth. Well, not exactly, it would be more like the other way around, since Dr. Hanushek is a national expert who has been carefully researching and writing about issues like this long before yours truly was a twinkle in my daddy’s eye. Hanushek’s arguments (including others in the article not quoted here) are strong, persuasive and research-based.

And having him give testimony here in town on an important case gives me an excuse to draw a couple important connections. Yesterday, my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow videotaped a joint appearance on 9News Your Show with state senator Rollie Heath to discuss the state of education funding and Heath’s Proposition 103 tax hike initiative.

My inside sources tell me that Ben cited Hanushek’s research (though not by name) on air to explain that the large majority of quality peer-reviewed academic studies show no connection between increased K-12 funding and improved educational outcomes. Tune in (or set your DVR for) Sunday at 10:30 AM on My20 or Comcast Channel 3 to watch the full 12-minute televised exchange.

Another connection, Hanushek is one of the experts featured in the acclaimed 2010 documentary Waiting for “Superman”. The 1 hr, 45 min film will be shown at a special event at the Independence Institute coming very soon:

Join us at our offices for a free viewing of Waiting for Superman on Tuesday, September 13, at 7:00 PM (doors open at 6:30 PM.) The film provides the compelling stories of five unforgettable students who are desperate to escape failing schools. Seating is limited and is on a first-come, first-served basis. Popcorn and candy will be available. Donations to the Independence Institute will be accepted.

An expert witness comes from California to inject some research-based fiscal sanity into a long and important Colorado case, and look what else you get to talk about. Who would have guessed? I love connections.