Fox News pumps up misleading study on homelessness spending in Denver

Fox News is promoting a highly dishonest study by a pro-business think tank in Colorado to claim that the city spends more money per-person on the homeless population than it does on public education per child.

However, the study — by a group called the Common Sense Institute — engages in a false equivalency by comparing only public spending on the Denver Public Schools system with a combination of both public and private spending on the city’s homeless population. (According to the group’s accounting, spending via charitable organizations made up roughly half of the total for homeless services.)

A spokesperson for the city also responded to the study, telling the local Fox affiliate who initially reported on it that the study “also mischaracterizes nonprofit spending on homelessness to include their work in other areas.”

Furthermore, K-12 education is only one area of social services, and the state of Colorado and private charities also have social services for children in areas of health care, child welfare, and more. But this study compares only K-12 public education spending with multiple areas of public and private social services a homeless person might encounter — whether involving the police, fire department, housing, health care, and so on.

Nonetheless, Fox News picked the story at a national level and garbled it even further in the process. During a set of news headlines on Fox & Friends, Jillian Mele further conflated the numbers as supposedly referring to only public spending.

“The city of Denver, shelling out funding for its homeless population. City officials are reportedly spending twice as much on one homeless person as they are on schoolchildren, even less on veterans,” Mele said. “The Colorado Department of Military and Veterans Affairs budget is reportedly just a fourth of what Denver spends on homelessness.” (Care for veterans, of course, is primarily a federal responsibility with its own cabinet-level department.)

And later on the program, the hosts discussed the story over a full-screen visual purporting to represent “City of Denver per person spending,” citing the Common Sense Institute via the local station. Co-host Brian Kilmeade characterized the city’s spending as “out of control,” and co-host Steve Doocy called it “jaw-dropping.”

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Citation From the August 6, 2021, edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends

Fox News frequently used the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to attack homeless people and efforts to house them. And before that, the network’s focus on the issue in 2019 led to a push by then-President Donald Trump for a major crackdown. Though paradoxically enough, the network has also used a newly feigned sympathy for the homeless people to attack migrants — and the network’s commentators have never been particular fans of spending the money that public schools would need for important matters.