Jerry Kopel

By Jerry Kopel

When the news goes bad, the news gets tossed. Present and former governors and other Colorado public officials have no problem with touting the yearly indexing by Governing Magazine when Colorado does favorably in relation to the other 49 states.

Governing Magazine is aimed at the many thousands of elected and appointed state, county, and city officials and businesses that deal with them. The July 2003 magazine included a supplement entitled SourceBook 2003 which provided good and bad news for Colorado. First some bad news.

In measuring economic momentum, Governing "averages the most recent one-year changes in employment, personal income and population, and relates each state's performance to the national average, set at zero."

In June of 2000, Colorado ranked first in the nation. It was worth boasting about, and Colorado citizens were fully informed.

But in June of 2003, we rank 40th. In 2000, we were part of the western boom, along with Arizona which ranked fourth, Nevada which ranked second, and Idaho which ranked third. Well, three years later, Arizona is still No. 4, Nevada is No. 1, and Idaho is No. 9. Meanwhile Hawaii changed places with Colorado. In 2000, it was ranked 40th. In 2003, it is ranked second. Alaska is third.

In measuring prison population, Governing used the latest available U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, which are from 2002. Colorado had 18,320 state prisoners, which averages out to 414 per every 100,000 in population. We rank 20th in the nation. The four states with the highest percent of prisoners per 100,000 population are all in the south. Louisiana, first with 799, Mississippi, second with 728, Texas, third with 685, and Oklahoma, fourth with 672.

How many average pupils are there in Colorado per teacher in K-12? Governing uses National Center for Education Statistics. There are 17.1 pupils per teacher in Colorado which ranks us 11th worst in the U.S., whereas Wyoming is sixth best with 13 students per teacher.

We spend $6,659 per pupil which ranks us 34th, but the sad fact is that amount is about what the AVERAGE of spending was in 1997 for the entire nation. The average teacher salary in Colorado is $40,222, making us 24th. If you want to be a teacher with some income comfort, you might skip North and South Dakota, ranked 49th and 50th with average salaries of $31,709 and $31,295.

How many state government employees are there in Colorado? In 1998 there were 78,200 and in 2003, there were 84,200. Of course there are more people in Colorado in 2003 than in 1998.

With the present budget crisis, I doubt there are still that many employees. The ONLY state with fewer state employees in 2003 vs. 1998 was Missouri which dropped 10,000 employees. Regardless of whether a state is big or small, we had the 14th highest increase in the number of state employees. Of course it is nowhere near California which added 67,000 state employees.

Looking at welfare recipients, Colorado has 32,458, which puts Colorado 48th per 10,000 population. Idaho and Wyoming are the only states with fewer recipients per 10,000 population. Tiny Rhode Island is actually first.

There are 45 different indexes this year. I have no connection with this magazine except as a faithful reader. For SourceBook2003, the online number is

(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)

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