Saturday, February 2, 2013

On the State of the State: Perry's Misrepresentation of Texas Public Education

In his 2013 State of the State address, Governor Perry stated that education spending had increased during the last decade. He stated:

Over the past decade, the state's share of public education spending increased from $11 billion per year to $20 billion in '09. That's an 82% increase. Part of our push for accountability has included a sharper focus on the basics like math, science, English & social studies.

Those efforts are paying off in the lives of our young people. For example, Texas has been recognized as one of only four states closing the achievement gap in math. On the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress, Texas children scored significantly higher than their peers.

The quality of education in our state is getting better and better preparing hardworking Texans to apply their legendary work ethic and provide for their families.

Is Perry correct, and more importantly, does it accurately reflect the position of education in Texas’ budget priorities? I think that it does not. Although Perry’s figures about increase in the state’s share of spending for public education may be correct, calculating Texas’ commitment to public education is not accurately depicted using the dollars committed to public education. A much better measure is spending per pupil, which accounts for the increase in the number of children who attend public schools in Texas. What is depicted when the per pupil spending is calculated for the last decade?

            Source: CPPP, Undermining the Texas Economy: The 2012-13 Texas State Budget

According to Cal Jillson’s Lone Star Tarnished (p. 113): “In fact, over the past decade, state and local funding of public schools in Texas has actually declined slightly after accounting for population growth and inflation. Remarkably, in 2002 the state appropriation per student was $8,366 and in 2011 it was $8,176.”

On whether, in George W. Bush’s words: “Is our students learning?” They aren’t learning as well as students in other states.  In SAT scores, Texas trails the average score by 30 points. Whereas the national average was 1011 in 2011, Texans who took the exam averaged 981. Although Texas’ Anglos and African Americans score higher than the national averages for their ethnic categories, Texas’ Hispanics score lower. The lower average score for Texas’ students is explained by the comparative ethnic makeup of test-takers in Texas versus the nation.

There is little doubt that Texas’ future depends on an educated workforce. Otherwise, Texas will fall behind other states in its ability to attract and hold the types of businesses that pay good wages and provide benefits to its employees.

UPDATE: The Texas Tribune has a nice piece on this issue here.  The most important paragraph is:

All of the data the Texas Public Policy Foundation uses on state education spending come from the comptroller’s office, Golsan said. He said in his statement he was referring to “raw dollars” spent on public education over the past decade, which did not account for inflation.
Sullivan said he also based his statement on raw numbers, though his came from the Texas Education Agency. In 2001, he said there were 4 million students in the public education system with about $27 billion spent total, which means the state spent about $6,500 per pupil. Ten years later, the system had grown to almost 5 million students with a total of $55.7 billion spent, or about $11,300 per pupil.
Both of those numbers, not adjusted for inflation, reflect state, federal and local spending combined.

The trick is to compare without using comparable data. It is so disingenuous!

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