PERRYMAN: Future prosperity depends on supporting public education

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Posted: Sunday, June 24, 2018 4:30 am

M. Ray Perryman

The Lone Star State is attracting more major corporate locations than any other (and has for a number of years) and is adding jobs at a strong pace. Growth is broad-based, covering the spectrum from cornerstone industries to emerging sectors. While I hate to rain on anyone’s parade, some recent statistics show one critical area where the state is falling behind: support for public education. If we don’t fix it, we will erode our advantage in the years to come.

The Census Bureau recently released the 2016 Annual Survey of School System Finances. It provides information regarding spending on public elementary and secondary school systems (including public charter schools). Of the 50 states plus Washington, D.C., Texas ranks 10th from the bottom in spending per pupil at $9,016, well below the national average of $11,762.

Part of the explanation is that most of the highest-spending states (such as New York, which is the highest at $22,366) are characterized by high costs of living in their major population centers. However, there are many states (such as Iowa, Nebraska, Montana, and South Carolina) that outpace Texas by a significant margin.

In instructional spending (basically teacher salaries and benefits), Texas stands at $5,514 compared to the U.S. average of $7,160 (13th from the bottom). While instructor salary is near the middle of the rankings, the employee benefits are literally the lowest in the nation (by a notable margin). Texas also spends far less on support services at $3,002 per student (the national average is $4,107).

Texas students’ college entrance exam scores are below national norms. According to Prep Scholar, the average SAT college entrance exam score in Texas was a 1020 of 1600, compared to a national average of 1060. The ACT also reported that the class of 2017 in Texas averaged a 20.7 composite score out of 36, below the national average of 21.0. These numbers are not catastrophic, but they do not bode well for the race to be a global technology player.

Texas increased total spending per student from 2015 to 2016, but only slightly (from $8,861 to $9,016). It was below the national average rise and certainly not sufficient to move up the rankings. While academic performance depends on more than just dollars, adequate resources are essential to quality education. Future prosperity depends on supporting public education and providing the funds to attract quality teachers and give them the support that they need. More folks who are raised in Texas stay here than in any other state. The kids we educate will either contribute to growth and competitiveness or be a drain on public and community resources. It is up to us!

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