Last Wednesday, the Arizona Republic published a fiscal impact assessment of the state’s education tax credit programs for k-12 private school choice. While the story itself was a good faith effort, there were errors in both its data and assumptions. I wrote an op-ed intended for the Republic correcting those errors and e-mailed a copy to the story’s author, Ron Hansen, the same day his story was published.
While the paper’s editorial page expressed no interest in printing my submission, the Republic published a correction today based on the accurate spending and savings figures I provided. In a phone call, Hansen indicated that the correction was precipitated by my e-mail, though he opted not to mention that in his story, saying that he didn’t think the source of the correction was important.
On the one hand, Hansen and the Republic are to be commended for publishing a correction, and it should be noted that the bad data were provided to them by Arizona Director of School Finance, Yousef Awwad. On the other hand, their correction is incomplete – acknowledging only the bad data and not the mistaken assumption explained in my op-ed.
So while the Republic has now raised its savings estimate from their originally reported $3 million to a corrected $8.3 million, they have yet to explain that this figure could actually understate the total savings.
Still, their response is better than I expected. Most newspapers, in my experience, do absolutely nothing when factual and reasoning errors in their education stories are brought to their attention, and in fact go on to repeat those same errors in subsequent stories.
And they wonder why two thirds of the public now doubt their credibility….