Accuracy Through Inaccurate Reports

January 12 2006, 5:39 PM
Now that the 2006 legislative session has begun in Colorado, stories about various bills that legislators are championing are starting to emerge. This one caught my eye because of the sheer strangeness of the logic involved. From 9News.com:
State Representative Jim Welker, R-Loveland, introduced a bill on the first day of session that, if passed, would force schools to ask all students when they register for school if they are legal U.S. citizens. Students could prove their citizenship by showing a birth certificate or social security card. They would not be required to answer, but the lawmaker says this would give an accurate look at the illegal immigrant problem. "It's basically a tracking mechanism so we can get information on reporting the cost to our public schools," Representative Welker says. "You call a school system and they don't know. They have no way to track it. Well, you don't run a business that way."
Forget whether or not you agree with what Welker is trying to do, which is to quantify the extent to which illegal immigration may be putting a strain on public education to help congress enact changes (because public school access is federally mandated). This is the part that kills me: Students could prove their citizenship by showing a birth certificate or social security card. They would not be required to answer, but the lawmaker says this would give an accurate look at the illegal immigrant problem. They wouldn't be required to answer the question, but Welker is sure that "this would give an accurate look at the illegal immigration problem." Really? How does that work? If you asked 100 people if they liked peanut butter, and 50 of them refused to answer, would you still say that you got an accurate read on how many of those 100 people like peanut butter? What if we took Welker's logic into public school testing? We're going to give the CSAP test, but you don't have to take it if you don't want to participate. In this way, we will ensure that we know how well all students are doing in their classrooms. Welker's bill won't be the first one introduced that has people scratching their heads, but it's a good start.