MADISON, Wis. – It’s foolish to believe political parties when they try to masquerade as news organizations.
Why? Because their goal is to make their own office-holders and candidates look good and the other party’s standard-bearers look bad.
Wisconsin’s Democratic Party gave us a very good example of this phenomenon last week.
The party issued a press release, clearly designed to embarrass Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans who control both houses of the state legislature.
The release claimed that Wisconsin had slipped from its traditional spot of second or third nationally in student ACT exam scores to a tie for 41st.
And the Democrats boldly stated that Walker and the Republicans were to blame, due to their K-12 education policies.
“The latest information released today is another glaring failure of the Walker administration to make sound, smart policy decisions to improve education in our state,” Wisconsin Democratic Chair Martha Laning was quoted as saying in the Democratic Party of Wisconsin press release.
“As a parent with children who have recently graduated from high school I’ve had a front row seat to the destructive changes that have short-changed our children and their futures. When budget cuts force schools to do more with less it’s no surprise that the quality of the education our children receive inevitably declines.”
As it turns out, the Democrats used the wrong test results to come to their conclusion, according to PolitiFact Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
In the spring of 2015, for the first time, all high school juniors in Wisconsin had the opportunity to take the ACT test, because the state picked up the tab for registration fees, according to PolitiFact Wisconsin.
The juniors had a composite score of 20 on the exam, which has a maximum score of 36.
The Democrats used that score and boldly announced that the state had slipped all the way into a tie for 41st with Kentucky in the national ACT rankings.
But states are ranked by the ACT scores of seniors who are about to graduate. Wisconsin seniors had a composite score of 22.2, which was the same as the previous year, the news report said.
Among states where more than half of the seniors took the test, Wisconsin ranked second in the nation, behind Minnesota, according to PolitiFact Wisconsin.
A spokesman for the state Democratic party admitted that they had “flubbed” the data used in the press release, according to the news report
The term “flubbed” seems to suggest that it was an honest mistake.
But given the state of politics in Wisconsin and across the nation, where both parties are quick to twist facts or figures to embarrass the other, we have to wonder if there was any mistake at all.