Texas schools will begin receiving A through F letter grades this year, based on academic performance. But who grades the state policies that oversee our public schools? Each year Education Week releases a report and ranking of the 50 states and D.C. on measures of achievement, including school finance, and assigns letter grades.
How did Texas measure up in terms of investing for the future? Not good.
In the most recent Texas 2018 Quality Counts report, Texas’ school finance system barely escaped a failing score, receiving a D+ and ranking 41st for its financial commitment to public education. The state did hit rock bottom with an F for public school spending, ranking 43rd. Texas received a B+ for equitably distributing the lackluster amount it invests in students.
In June, Education Week released more detailed information on school spending. When adjusted for differences in regional costs, Texas invests $8,485 per student, the report found, while the national average investment is $12,526. Texas ranks lower than Mississippi ($9,885) and Alabama ($10,142) and invests less than half of the highest-spending states like New York or Vermont. See the interactive map below for funding grades of all fifty states and D.C.
F investments won’t produce A+ achievement
While Texas earned an F for funding education and faces more challenging demographics than other states, our public schools still manage to perform in line with the nation’s average, receiving a C- grade and ranking 24th in achievement. Texas’ grade on “chance-for-success” lagged behind the national average, based on a combination of factors such as parental education levels and the availability of high quality pre-K programs. Unlike a number of other states, Texas does not fund a full-day high-quality pre-K program. Many school districts do recognize the value of pre-K and allocate local dollars to fund full-day programs in the absence of adequate state support.
We should not be satisfied with C- performance in our schools. Every student deserves a high-quality education and a fair shot at success and to achieve that, we need to have high expectations for all schools. But if we continue investing in our education system at an F level, our schools and students will struggle to excel.
We must act
Texas’ dismal set of grades should focus the policy discussion on what constitutes appropriate resources to support students in our public schools, not just arcane funding formulas. Texas students deserve better.