Monday, May 12, 2008

Numbers and Knowing

Interesting story from about a week ago in the Savannah Morning News about the school district not liking the numbers from a study it paid for on where growth might occur.

Why am I blogging about it? Because what we know, and what the numbers support, are often two very different things.

Plus there's a UGA connection, with demographer and professor Doug Bachtel being hired to do the work. The school system wondered where students were going to be among the various burbs growing outside of town, so which one gets a high school.

None of 'em, Bachtel says.

"Your population growth is among poor, urban, African-American," he told them.

Basically, the percentage growth out in the burbs looks impressive, but the base number is rather small. Growing from five to ten kids may be a 100% increase, but after all, it's just five more kids.

The board didn't like this, even threatened to sue. After all, they paid $33,000 for a report that failed the primary test of government consulting -- tell them what they already want to hear so they can do what they wanted to do in the first place, but have political cover through a consultant's numbers.

Oops.

The board wants to build a school in the burbs, for in some cases very good political reasons, but probably not for the best policy reasons. There's a blurry line between the two, and as the father of kids in public schools not unlike those in Savannah, I can understand the board's rationale for building a burb school to stall white flight to private overindulged yuppie larvae schools or the white-flight county next door.

It's just that sometimes, the numbers aren't there, especially using the kind of numbers Bachtel was using, which he warned them are ripe with potential error.

So the school system got told what it didn't want to hear. Your growth is among poor city blacks, so why even bother building a school out in the burbs? They want a school out there, and I'm fairly sure that's what will happen in the long run.

1 comment:

Runa said...

People should read this.