Facts and insights about Texas public schools

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Texas Schools Work Hard to Meet Educational Needs

Want to know more about the enormous job your public schools do? Check out TEA’s 2015–16 Pocket Edition of Texas Public School Statistics. One look at this handy, annual guide shows just how enormous a job it is to educate Texas’ 5.2 million students:

  • It requires more than 1,200 school districts and charters, more than 8,600 campuses, and more than 345,000 teachers.
  • Every year, Texas schools add an additional 80,000 students.
  • Texas educates a highly diverse student population: 52.2 percent Hispanic, 28.5 percent white, 12.6 percent African-American, 4 percent Asian, 2.1 percent two or more races, .4 percent American Indian, and .1 percent Pacific Islander.
  • The majority of Texas students are economically disadvantaged (59 percent).
  • More than 18 percent of students have limited English-language skills.

In spite of those challenges:

  • More than 90 percent of Texas students graduated, continued their education, or received a GED in 2015. Texas is consistently one of the top five states for highest graduation rate.
  • Most students taking the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) end-of-course exams pass on the first try.
  • More than 94 percent of districts and 88 percent of campuses met the state’s rigorous accountability standards.

April 26, 2017

Districts Don’t Overspend on Extracurricular Activities

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Only 3 percent of the average school district’s total budget is spent on all extracurricular activities, which includes sports, clubs, and other programs. Funding for athletic facilities and other campus buildings come from bonds approved by local citizens. Bond money approved for facilities cannot be used to fund school operations.

April 25, 2017

RYHT: Special Education Vouchers Are No Panacea

In Texas and nationwide, the latest discussion on school choice has focused on allowing students with disabilities to participate in voucher programs. This means families who are dissatisfied with the special education services they receive in public schools could use public funds in the form of vouchers to allow their children to attend a private school.

RYHT makes it clear that families of children with disabilities give up important rights in the process of moving to private schools. For the full story, read “Loss of Rights in the Name of Choice: The Dangers of Special Education Vouchers” on the RYHT Website

Raise Your Hand Texas (RYHT) made the following important observation about this latest gambit in the school choice debate: “While promoted as a solution for families dissatisfied with services in the public school system, in reality, special education vouchers are employed as a political gateway to universal vouchers.”

April 19, 2017

Murdock: Texas Will Be a Poorer, Less-Educated State if Current Trends Continue

Well-known demographer Steve Murdock has been giving the same speech for nearly three decades. More than half of Texas’ residents will be Hispanic by 2050, and one-third or fewer will be white. That demographic shift means that it is imperative for Texas to work quickly to close educational achievement gaps. Failing to do so will result in growing inequality, an undereducated workforce, and additional strain on the state’s social services and criminal justice system.

Read “Texas Demographer Has Given the Same Speech for 25 Years. Is Anyone Listening?” in the Texas Observer.

April 17, 2017

TASB Talks Episode 3: Karen Strong on Advocacy for Public Schools

What can you do right now to be an advocate for public schools? Our new podcast features Karen Strong, TASB’s associate executive director of Communications at TASB. She talks about TASB’s advocacy resources, which allow you to learn more about the issues affecting public schools and communicate your thoughts to your legislator.

April 13, 2017

Proposed Law Would Pass Cost of Seat Belts for New Buses to Districts

Have you ever wondered why school districts complain about the cost of state mandates? The Texas Legislature has provided an excellent example.

Senate Bill (SB) 693 would require that school districts that purchase buses from 2017 and beyond make sure the new buses include three-point seat belts. Current law requires seat belts on school buses if the state allots funds to cover their cost. SB 693 would remove that funding contingency and shift the cost to school districts.

A substitute bill that is also being considered would give school districts the “opportunity” to refuse to install seat belts, predicated on the showing that there’s no money in their budgets to cover the extra cost.

If this bill passes, instead of the state living up to its responsibility to pay the cost of seat belts as it has for 10 years, districts will bear either the cost of installing them or the burden of showing that they don’t have the resources to pay for them.

April 12, 2017

Texas’ School Finance System Throttles Cities with Taxes, Regulations

A new article in the Texas Tribune notes that while Texas prides itself on its robust economic growth, state officials are looking the other way while school districts and cities get throttled by high property taxes and regulations.

Austin ISD (AISD) is one of the districts hit especially hard by the current state of the school finance system. More than $400 million in AISD tax money went to the state this fiscal year to fulfill the recapture requirement of our school finance system: the state takes funds from school districts that are thriving economically due to increased property values and sends them to those with the greatest need as a means of equalizing funding.

Ten years ago, the state paid 45 percent of the overall cost of public education in Texas. Today it pays 38 percent. In essence, the state leans on the vibrant growth of Texas cities (and their ever-growing property values) for revenue and at the same time shifts a portion of the cost burden for education to them.

Read “Analysis: A state school finance system that can choke a city’s growth,” by Ross Ramsey.

April 11, 2017

Second TASB Talks Podcast Features School Finance Expert Clark

There is nothing simple about Texas’ school finance system. TASB’s school finance expert Catherine Clark discusses how schools are funded and why the system is so complex in this podcast.

April 6, 2017

Raise Your Hand Texas Voucher Videos Worth a Watch

Raise Your Hand Texas (RYHT) has recently developed and posted a series of videos that do a brilliant job of illustrating the problems with the voucher schemes currently being debated by the Texas Legislature. You can view them here.

The videos are “Mr. Voucher I: Same Old Mr. Voucher,” “Mr. Voucher II: Can I pretend to rescue you?” and “Mr. Voucher III: FrankenVoucher.”

April 5, 2017

Lottery Funds Don’t Go as Far as You Think

The Legislative Budget Board (LBB) provides details on public school funding in its Fiscal Size-Up 2016–17 (PDF). See the Funding Sources section that begins on page 228.

April 3, 2017