Facts and insights about Texas public schools

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Support for charter schools in decline

The most recent annual poll by magazine Education Next indicates that the public’s support for charter schools has fallen significantly from last year. The 12 percentage-point drop brought support for charters to 39 percent and marked the biggest shift in the survey results for this year.

The decline in support for charters was about the same for Democrats and Republicans (approximately 13 percent for Republicans and 11 percent for Democrats). Support also fell among minorities (a drop of approximately 9 percent among African-Americans and 5 percent among Hispanics).

For a summary of the poll’s results, read “Charter Schools take a hit in nationwide poll” by John Fensterwald on the EdSource Website.

September 19, 2017

Study: Public Schools Offer Broadest Range of Choices

A new report from the Center for Public Education (CPE) found that public schools offer the broadest range of educational and extracurricular options. CPE is the research arm of the National School Boards Association (NSBA).

Busting the Myth of ‘one-size-fits all’ Public Education” found that public schools offer an abundance of choice in program offerings and school selection. “Extraordinary activities and approaches occur in public schools every day because school boards and school leaders continually devise and employ innovative approaches to help students succeed,” said Thomas J. Gentzel, director and CEO of the NSBA.

Other key findings in the report are as follows:

  • Public high schools offer more educational opportunities, including Advanced Placement, gifted and honors classes, and distance learning opportunities. The vast majority offer access to hands-on college experience and career preparation.
  • Public schools are more likely to offer child care, tutoring, and enrichment opportunities for students. They are also much more likely to have a counselor available to students.
  • Most public school students have the option to transfer to other schools in their district or a neighboring district.

September 18, 2017

Vouchers Won’t Solve America’s Education Problems

David Osborne, author of the book Reinventing America’s Schools: Creating a 21st Century Education System, believes that the school choice maneuvers being pushed at the national level will only reduce equality and opportunity.

“We need more equal opportunity and equality in this society, not less,” Osborne said. “And the education system is already pretty stratified. It would make it worse, not better. On top of that, private schools are not accountable for kids’ learning. There’s nobody who can close a private school.”

Read “Vouchers Aren’t the Answer to Solving America’s Education Problems, Says Author of ‘Reinventing American’s Schools’” on the74million.

September 13, 2017

ACT Exam Scores Improve

Overall scores on the ACT Exam rose, with the graduating class of 2017 attaining a composite score of 21, up from 20.8 for the class of 2016.

The performance of Hispanic students was noteworthy. Generally, when the pool of test takers increases, scores go down. The number of Hispanic students taking the test increased and their test scores rose, demonstrating a higher level of college readiness.

Read “Students’ Scores Inch Up on ACT Exam” by Catherine Gewertz in Education Week online.

September 11, 2017

Special Session Has Little Effect on Public Schools

For all the attention on public education in the recently completed special session of the Texas Legislature, not much of substance got done. Dax Gonzalez from TASB Governmental Relations offers his analysis in the latest TASB Talks podcast.

Among his takeaways is that legislators reduced state aid by about $1.1 billion for this coming biennium and are expecting to fill the budget hole with an additional $1.4 billion in property tax revenue. “It’s an alarming trend, it’s something that’s been continuing over several years, and by the end of the biennium we should see state aid drop to somewhere in the low- to mid- 30 percent range,” Gonzalez said.

September 8, 2017

Another First for Texas Public Schools

In 2016, the Texas on-time public school graduation rate reached an all-time high (89.1 percent) for the ninth consecutive year! An additional 4.2 percent of students continued on for a fifth year in an effort to graduate and .5 percent passed the General Education Development (GED) test.

Read about this achievement and others on the Friends of Texas Public Schools Website.

September 6, 2017

Parents give public schools high grades

There’s good news about public schools in the new PDK Poll. They are most popular by far among those who know them best. Sixty-two percent of public school parents give their community schools a grade of A or B, compared with 45 percent of nonparents.

Seventy-one percent of parents give their own child’s school an A or B. That includes 15 percent A’s, the highest percentage of A’s in 40 years of PDK polling.

Read “Grading the public schools” on the PDK Website.

August 30, 2017

Vouchers Would Make Matters Worse for Public Schools

A commentary by Barbara Frandsen, a retired teacher, observes that a voucher system would take the struggles of Texas public schools to a whole new level.

  • Texas remains in the bottom quartile of states in per-pupil funding, according to the Texas Coalition for Public Schools. Given the state of funding for public schools, it seems obvious that Texas can’t afford to fund two systems.
  • Private schools aren’t held to the same accountability standards as Texas public schools. Schools that receive public funds should be.
  • The cost of providing services in public schools doesn’t decrease when a small percentage of children leave for private schools.
  • Vouchers don’t typically cover the full tuition cost for a private school, and disadvantaged families often can’t afford to make up the difference.
  • Vouchers aren’t a good solution for students with disabilities. Private schools don’t receive state and federal funds to equip them for that task so they can’t provide equivalent services.

Frandsen challenges the state to come up with real solutions for what ails public schools. Read “Texas’ public schools are struggling—and vouchers make matters worse” in the Austin American-Statesman.

August 23, 2017

Final Version of HB 21 Disappoints

A blog post on the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) Website calls the version of House Bill 21 the Texas Legislature approved “…a step in the wrong direction” for the following reasons:

  • It worsens funding disparities between charter and traditional public schools.
  • It maintains Additional State Aid for Tax Reduction (ASATR) funding for struggling districts instead of fixing funding formula problems that cause hardship.
  • It offers no solution for Texas’ outdated, underfunded school finance system.

The post notes that the state is continuing to shift costs to school districts and counties. “The Legislature’s decisions to reduce state-budget support for public education have increased local property taxes. Similarly, their decisions not to adequately fund Medicaid have resulted in a shift of health care costs to counties, which now fund over half the state share of Texas hospitals’ Medicaid revenues,” the post reads.

Read “Legislature Pits Education against Health Care” by Chandra Villanueva, senior policy analyst for CPPP.

August 21, 2017

Don’t Believe the Hype about Inefficient Spending

A new commentary in TribTalk, a publication of the Texas Tribune, claims that the Texas school finance system is on life support, but more state funding for public schools isn’t the cure to the problem.

The commentary contends that schools hire inefficiently. According to data from the Texas Education Agency, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The state’s most recent Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas ratings showed that more than 98 percent of Texas school districts have a superior financial rating, meaning that they provide the “maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes.”

The authors argue that the answer is switching from the current system of school finance to one where state money follows the student. In her commentary in the March issue of Texas Lone Star magazine, Karen Strong, TASB’s associate executive director of Communications and Public Relations, debunks the idea that having a taxpayer’s dollars follow their child is a realistic (or more efficient) solution to our school finance problems.

In 2016, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the Texas’ public school finance system is constitutional, but there is no question that Texas districts are struggling to make do. A recent U.S. News and World Report story ranks Texas 36th nationwide in classroom spending ($2,555 less per student than the national average).

Additional state funding would certainly help take the pressure off of local property taxpayers, who have paid an increasing share of the education tab for more than a decade.

August 17, 2017