Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Do Anti-Immigration Activists Use Funny Math?

Check out THIS article, alleging that illegal immigrants cost California 10.5 billion dollars a year.

The basic premise is that the children of illegal immigrants constitute 15% of the school-age population, which costs California 7.7 billion dollars annually. I call shenanigans.

How does adding an extra 15% to the school-age population add 7.7 billion dollars in expenses? Does that sound right to you? If you increase class sizes, other than extra classroom supplies, how exactly do costs go up by the billions?

At some point, new teachers have to be hired (usually resulting in jobs to American citizens), and new classrooms built, but new construction and new supplies do not cost billions of dollars each year. In short, there is some funny math going on here.

Here's how I think the partisan institute came up with $7+ billion: California's K-14 education programs receive about 50 to 60 billion dollars a year total. Take 15% of that, and you end up with about 7.7 billion dollars, a very rough estimate that doesn't factor in teacher pension costs, lifetime medical benefits, and other undefined wage/benefit obligations.

Remember: 80 to 85% of education funding goes to teachers and administrators (mostly to teachers and teaching staff). That leaves 15% to the kids. 15% of 15% = just 2.25% of total education expenditures--not an additional 15% increase in education costs. A billion dollars is still significant, but it's nowhere near the scary 7.7 billion dollars number.

Another person's response: Fact: illegal immigrants "tax" our system through free schooling, healthcare (going to emergency rooms for simple colds and ridiculous laws forcing hospitals to treat them), and the thousands of examples of illegal immigrants committing crimes and packing out jails. I know both legal and illegal immigrants. Guess which ones care about laws?

If illegal immigrants even cost the system $10 it's too much. THEY ARE ILLEGAL. Not sure what's so difficult to understand about that. Or, do you support rapists rights, too? How about bank robbers? How about people who double park or run red lights?

The article is a brief synopsis of expenses. Do you really need it broken down to understand that it's bankrupting our state? Maybe the public hospitals that have closed down in the Bay Area are example enough. No? How about the school closings?

Response to above: Illegal immigration is a complicated topic, made even more complex by the absence of reliable statistics on tax revenue (which includes sales, gas, and uncollected Social Security taxes). I just worry when anyone singles out a particular group for much of society's woes. Such resentment is easy to inflame into hatred—and easy to exploit.

I will say this: we've had illegal immigration for many decades, and we still managed to have schools and public/county hospitals do well. Thus, it seems that the issues facing schools and county hospitals result from a multitude of different factors, not just illegal immigration. Also, if the children of illegal immigrants do well and become net contributors to the tax base, many of the financial issues relating to illegal immigration become moot. Just my two cents.

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