They say figures don’t lie but liars figure. The axiom comes to mind in connection with claims that District 62 Republican state Rep. Matt Ubelhor is making to attack Democratic challenger Jeff Sparks.
Ubelhor, in a flier mailed to Monroe County households and a nasty TV attack ad, uses true figures to create a misleading picture of school funding in Indiana. He labels Sparks “dishonest” for challenging him on the issue and for suggesting Republicans have cut school funding. The flier says Ubelhor “has delivered an increase of $3,952,008″ to the Monroe County Community School Corp.” since 2010.
It’s true that state funding for MCCSC has grown by about that much under budgets he and other lawmakers approved. But over four years and with a $60 million-plus budget, that’s just 1.6 percent per year – not enough to keep pace with costs for health care, utilities, etc. In real terms, it’s arguably a cut.
Ubelhor also says state spending for MCCSC has increased every year since Republicans took control of the House. The flier includes a graph that shows spending decreased in 2010, when Democrats had a majority. But Democrats had nothing to do with that cut. It happened because Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels unilaterally cut state spending on schools by over $300 million as the recession decimated state tax revenues. For MCCSC schools, that meant a $3 million loss.
As David Emmert, general counsel with the Indiana School Boards Association, pointed out Friday on WFIU radio’s “Noon Edition” program, Indiana schools continue to operate at pre-recession funding levels – while the state sits on a $2 billion budget surplus.
Since 2009, before the Daniels cut, state funding for MCCSC has grown by $900,000 – only 1.4 percent after five years. Per-pupil state funding has barely budged.
The Ubelhor flier also employs a common but unfortunate trick in the graph showing trends in MCCSC funding. It sets the baseline for the vertical axis at $5,600 per pupil, not at zero. This makes it look like funding has more than doubled since he took office, when nothing remotely like that has happened.
This is a hot contest, and the House Republican Campaign Committee has dumped $215,000 into Ubelhor’s campaign in the past two weeks. Apparently this kind of desperate tactic is the result.
Referring to Sparks, the flier says: “We don’t need more politicians who are willing to do or say anything to get elected.” Look in the mirror, Rep. Ubelhor.