Yesterday, the Texas Education Agency published its Public Education Grant list which helps identify failing schools in the state. Troublingly, the number of poorly performing public schools appearing on this year’s list grew mightily compared to years past.
This year’s list singled out 1,532 failing public schools out of more than 8,500 statewide. That’s a dramatic increase over last year’s total of 1,199 campuses and 892 two years ago.
According to the Dallas Morning News, there are two ways that schools can find themselves on the list: “If at least half the students fail any STAAR subject for two of the past three years – reading, writing, math, science and social studies; or if a school was rated ‘improvement required’ in the state accountability system even once during the past three years.”
In North Texas, Dallas ISD schools fared especially poorly. According to TEA’s report, 40 percent, or 91, of DISD’s 227 schools received a failing grade. That sort of academic underperformance looks especially bad in light of the district’s weak fiscal position.
Public education advocates often seek to make the link between more resources and better performance, but Dallas ISD arguably taxes and spends more than most.
According to the Texas Education Agency’s 2014-15 Texas Academic Performance Report, Dallas ISD collects more than $6,000 per student per year in local tax revenue. By comparison, the statewide average is just $4,584 per student. The district’s total revenues (including from federal, state, and local sources combined) are also in excess of the statewide average.
On the expenditure side of the ledger, Dallas ISD is one of the most heavily indebted districts in Texas. According to the Texas Comptroller’s Texas Transparency website, the district’s tax-supported debt outstanding is, in the aggregate, the highest amount owed compared to its peers institutions. On a per student basis, the district’s tax supported debt outstanding also ranks poorly.
Source: Texas Comptroller
It should be noted too that the district’s swell of red ink has been accumulated at a time when DISD’s enrollment has been almost flat over the last decade. From 2004-05 to 2013-14, DISD student enrollment grew just 1.1 percent while the statewide average was 14.6 percent.
Source: Texas Comptroller
Based on the evidence and the fact that more than 40 percent of DISD’s schools received a failing grade, it’s clear that the district, and others like it, are in need of significant policy improvement—and that more money isn’t the answer.