You’ve been granted free access to this subscribers only article.
Editorial: Texas must educate more than elite to secure future
By Matthew Ladner, Ph.D.
Texas currently stands as an economic juggernaut, leading the nation in private sector job growth by a wide margin. Texans, however, suffer from an Achilles heel that remains largely unrecognized. In 2011, the Nation’s Report Card, a highly respected national examination, revealed that only 27 percent of Texas’ eighth-grade students score proficient in reading. The bitter experience of the 1980s taught that heavy reliance upon commodities eventually ends in tears. In order to truly secure the state’s future as an opportunity society, Texans must relentlessly pursue public school improvement.
The NAEP data reveal appalling achievement gaps: 42 percent of Texas Anglos read proficiently, while only 17 percent of Hispanics met the standard, with even lower average achievement for Black students. Hispanics now make up a majority of Texas public school students. The future prosperity and stability of the state rests upon providing opportunity for all students.
The Texas lawmakers are debating important issues regarding graduation standards during the 2013 session. Even more fundamental issues remain. We need to be asking what can be done to ensure that more Texas public school students can read the textbooks of whatever courses they take.
In addition to academic issues, Texas districts have been annually adding approximately 80,000 new students. The resulting financial strain has required a steadily decreasing percentage of funds going into the classroom.
Texas public school enrollment has grown by more than 50 percent since 1990, from approximately 3.3 million students in 1990 to 5 million today. Costs per students have surged and the percentage of funds available for instruction has declined. Since 2000 the total expenditure per child has increased from $6,638 per pupil to $11,146. Debt service and capital outlay costs nearly doubled as a percentage of district budgets.
Today less than half of funds go to pay for instruction as teachers find themselves squeezed in expanding district budgets and taxpayers feel the strain of annually rising property taxes. Texas in effect tried and failed to spend their way to higher quality schools.
Texans were K-12 reform leaders in the 1990s but today these efforts appear to be low-hanging fruit. Just keeping ahead of most other large states will require upgraded academic performance. Internationally, competitive scores will require still more improvement.
Moving the needle on school performance will not be easy, but it is possible. A recent Stanford University study found that Florida achieved the second to largest NAEP score gains despite having the smallest overall increase in per-student funding.
The Florida strategy relied upon clear transparency (A-F school grades based upon student proficiency and academic growth) and the most far-reaching parental choice policies in the nation. Florida lawmakers provided incentives for improvement and opportunities for parents to match their child with a school that meets their needs.
Even schools with high average performance have students who could prosper more elsewhere. The experience with parental choice clearly demonstrates that it improves both student learning and public schools. Florida’s low-income and minority students led the way on improvement, and the public education system grew stronger in the process.
Texas school districts have nothing to fear from parental choice. If every charter school west of the Mississippi River had opened in Texas, Texas school districts would have still expanded their enrollment by more than half a million students since 1990. The cartoonish elephant terrified of a mouse pose of various defenders of the status quo should not deceive anyone. Districts have more growth than they can handle.
Texas cannot remain a place where people live the American dream while educating only a fraction of students to levels sufficient to participate in the competitive global economy. Texans both urgently need and desire a public education system that helps every student reach their potential. Texans justifiably view their state as a land of opportunity.
We should stop at nothing to keep it so.
Matthew Ladner is a Senior Fellow with Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for Education Policy, a nonprofit, free-market research based institute in Austin.
Your Opinions and Comments
Be the first to comment on this story!
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Section A: General News Archives
American Legion ceremony (May 25, 2016)
Annexation for fire services will be on November ballot (May 25, 2016)
Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts to honor fallen heroes (May 25, 2016)
Camino Real plans Open House events (May 25, 2016)
Chief Hull resigns from Poth police (May 25, 2016)
County sets sights on new tax (May 25, 2016)
Court Update (May 25, 2016)
Editorial: Grim choices have put America in a grave situation (May 25, 2016)
Editorial: On the other side of politics in a world of digital divide (May 25, 2016)
Fire, EMS services — Who’s got you covered? (May 25, 2016)
It’s okay to take control (May 25, 2016)
Letter: Free ride over hard work … a no-brainer! (May 25, 2016)
Letter: Housing Foundation expresses gratitude (May 25, 2016)
Letter: Mainstream media ‘brainwashing’ Hispanic/Latino voters (May 25, 2016)
Meeting Watch: Wilson County Memorial Hospital District (May 25, 2016)
Memorial Day office closures (May 25, 2016)
One viewpoint: Making Floresville marketable with recreational facilities (May 25, 2016)
Parish plans Cemetery Ceremony (May 25, 2016)
Police arrest man in case of burned body (May 25, 2016)
Police Blotter (May 25, 2016)
Police ticket six for violating cell phone ban (May 25, 2016)
Post 539 service (May 25, 2016)
Poth electric vehicle users could be in for a shock (May 25, 2016)
Poth High School students earn awards (May 25, 2016)
Severe storms shred Wilson County (May 25, 2016)
SSCA ceremony (May 25, 2016)
Teacher salaries, student lunch prices on the rise (May 25, 2016)
Tejano music to fill the air during Labor Day event (May 25, 2016)
Turner: New businesses coming to Floresville (May 25, 2016)
Berger earns Ph.D. from Columbia University (May 18, 2016)
Brahma Happenings (May 18, 2016)
Burning body spurs murder investigation (May 18, 2016)
Can I negotiate? (May 18, 2016)
Court Update (May 18, 2016)
Editorial: Narrow views promote intellectual, moral dry rot (May 18, 2016)
Editorial: The political climate in America goes from bad to worse (May 18, 2016)
Falls City ISD’s new K-12 building almost complete (May 18, 2016)
Floresville parks master plan would relocate ball fields (May 18, 2016)
Floresville parks plan wins council approval (May 18, 2016)
Foundation awards $9K in grants (May 18, 2016)
Foundation opens health grant process (May 18, 2016)
Graco recalls booster seats (May 18, 2016)
Grass fires on the rise (May 18, 2016)
Letter: An open letter to Congress (May 18, 2016)
Letter: Illegal immigration: Who will laugh last? (May 18, 2016)
Letter: What Hispanic vote? (May 18, 2016)
Lone Star Greys to meet (May 18, 2016)
Meeting Watch: La Vernia City Council (May 18, 2016)
Meeting Watch: Poth ISD (May 18, 2016)
Police Blotter (May 18, 2016)
Police recover one of two stolen trucks (May 18, 2016)
Register for free watercolor lesson (May 18, 2016)
Stockdale campus to get upgrade soon (May 18, 2016)
Stockdale City Council approves electronic payment processing (May 18, 2016)
TAMU-SA matches student scholarships (May 18, 2016)
Time to make plans to attend Jubilee (May 18, 2016)
Want fire protection? Attend May 19 hearing (May 18, 2016)
Acme Gold Buyers marks fifth year in Floresville (May 11, 2016)
All Veterans Job Fair (May 11, 2016)
Cemetery group to meet (May 11, 2016)
Children’s Alliance enhances care services (May 11, 2016)
China Grove mayor, police chief trade barbs at meeting (May 11, 2016)
Commissioners lukewarm toward hot coffee at library (May 11, 2016)
Competency and integrity (May 11, 2016)
Court Update (May 11, 2016)
Coy to get Ranger Cross (May 11, 2016)
Cub Scout Roundup (May 11, 2016)
Donate blood in May (May 11, 2016)
Editor: Trump’s candidacy sets in motion affliction in future elections (May 11, 2016)
Editorial: The voters have spoken — well, some of them have! (May 11, 2016)
Former Sutherland Springs VFD considered as a substation (May 11, 2016)
Free caregivers class starts May 26 (May 11, 2016)
Information sought in Walmart theft (May 11, 2016)
Lack of super majority vote keeps Clean Water Rule flowing (May 11, 2016)
Leetter: The government is a terrible investor (May 11, 2016)
Letter: Injection well site is near river, creeks (May 11, 2016)
Letter: Stop being negative (May 11, 2016)
LV youths win new wheels at Bike Rodeo (May 11, 2016)
Meeting Watch: La Vernia ISD (May 11, 2016)
Mineral rights workshop set (May 11, 2016)
Miss LV Pageant, Bluebonnet Parade, graduation fill La Vernia calendar (May 11, 2016)
New Wilson County justice center nears completion (May 11, 2016)
Personalized brick for Veterans Memorial (May 11, 2016)
Police Blotter (May 11, 2016)
Precinct 3 primary runoff is May 24 (May 11, 2016)
Rangers to honor Lorenz (May 11, 2016)
Rohrs takes over Floresville athletics (May 11, 2016)
Tanneberger qualifies for Executive Club membership (May 11, 2016)
Voters respond: One bond passes, another fails (May 11, 2016)
Wednesday morning crash injures nine (May 11, 2016)
AACOG plans public meeting (May 4, 2016)
Accident injures two drivers (May 4, 2016)
AgriLife offers tips to protect from Zika, other mosquito-borne diseases (May 4, 2016)
Behind the lens: Solitary stillness (May 4, 2016)
Celebration Mass June 12 (May 4, 2016)
Cemetery association meeting (May 4, 2016)
Condos are fine, but do your research (May 4, 2016)
Court Update (May 4, 2016)
Crime Stoppers aids police anonymously (May 4, 2016)
DA, DPS bust nets 86 charges (May 4, 2016)
Debate over citizens comments dominates Floresville council (May 4, 2016)
Dwellings At Home offers lodge, ranch furnishings, more (May 4, 2016)
Editorial: Overbearing city council threatens boards’ independence (May 4, 2016)
Editorial: Taking personal responsibility will bring possibilities (May 4, 2016)
Editorial: Trump is the same old song with one more verse (May 4, 2016)
FEDC tables recommendation of master parks plan (May 4, 2016)
FELPS tornado repair continues as FEMA help stalls (May 4, 2016)
Floresville Chamber Luncheon May 18 (May 4, 2016)
Hall of Fame inductees: Joe Kotwig, Malcolm and Beverly Talley (May 4, 2016)
Letter: Alamo Colleges: A bust for Floresville (May 4, 2016)
Local nursing homes plan Senior Olympics May 9-13 (May 4, 2016)
Look twice for motorcycle riders (May 4, 2016)
Lyssy’s vault earns gold, sets records! (May 4, 2016)
Medicaid, CHIP application assistance (May 4, 2016)
Meeting Watch: Wilson County Commissioners Court (May 4, 2016)
National Day of Prayer May 5 (May 4, 2016)
Police Blotter (May 4, 2016)
Ramirez promoted to colonel (May 4, 2016)
Reserve a seat for SA Tea Party (May 4, 2016)
Tanneberger tops in sales (May 4, 2016)
Treviño prepares to take reins of East Central athletics (May 4, 2016)