Most adults – except those who reside in Fantasyland (which apparently includes some of our state leaders) – recognize that sufficient funding is a critical factor in the success of our public schools. And, I am not talking about vouchers and other pie-in-the-sky privatization schemes, which Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the mayor of Fantasyland, announced only yesterday that he will try again to revive.
I am talking about taxpayer dollars earmarked for the support of students attending neighborhood public schools, and still another report reminds us that Texas is doing a lousy job. Education Week, in its latest annual “Quality Counts” report, gives Texas policymakers a big fat “D” for school finance, a ranking of 45th in the nation.
The ranking, based on 2013 expenditures, is tempered a little by the fact that Texas is credited with doing a little better (but not much) than other states on equalization between property poor and rich districts. Based on per-pupil spending alone, Texas is ranked 49th, even worse than previous rankings compiled by the National Education Association.
The Education Week figures, after adjustment for regional cost differences, show Texas spending about $3,700 less per student than the national average. According to the National Education Association, which did not adjust for regional cost differences, Texas spent almost $2,400 less per student than the national average in 2013-14.
Even as many school districts continued to struggle to recover from the $5.4 billion in school budget cuts that Patrick and other members of the legislative majority approved in 2011, Patrick and his cohorts left several billion dollars unspent when they wrote the new state budget last spring. And, they are hoping the Texas Supreme Court will reverse a lower court order for lawmakers to draft an adequate, fair and constitutional school finance system.
Patrick is a school privateer whose plan is this. Under-fund the public school system, declare it a “failure” and then privatize, beginning with the diversion of tax dollars to pay for private school vouchers. He calls them tax credit scholarships. Waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck. They will transfer tax money to private schools. They are vouchers.
Education Week’s grade of “D” on Texas school finance may have been generous. Patrick would make it worse.