• Basilemorin
  • Numbers are so much fun

In a recent column, the Tribune‘s Eric Zorn attempted to parse the complicated question of whether Chicago gets more, or less, than its rightful share of state aid for education. “So what’s the bottom line?” Zorn asked himself as he wrapped up the exercise. But there wasn’t just one bottom line. There were two.

There was the Republicans’ “detailed spreadsheet” showing that Chicago schools come out $137 million ahead of where they’d be “if everything—including pensions—were calculated using the same formulas in every district.” And then there was Chicago’s chart that “goes at the problem a different way” and concludes that Chicago serves 19.5 percent of the students but gets only 18.6 percent of all school aid.

Zorn didn’t try to choose between the two contradictory bottom lines. He threw up his hands. “The different approaches to school funding,” he concluded, “are so needlessly complex as to be opaque.”

I question needlessly. Opacity is usually in someone’s interests—though often not the public’s.