Public school officials in Texas won’t take “yes” for an answer. No matter how much money the state spends on education, districts everywhere are pleading poverty and falsely claiming that schools are “underfunded.”
It’s a persistent myth routinely voiced in the media. But how does it square with reality?
It would help if we all started with the same set of facts.
According to the Texas Education Agency—which distributes money to public schools—Texas spent $84.8 billion on public education in the 2021-22 school year, which is $15,708 for each of the 5.4 million Texas students.
Purveyors of the myth claim Texas only spends $6,160 per student, which would make Texas among the bottom 10 nationally. That’s because they only count a portion of what Texas actually spends, known as the Basic Allotment. They intentionally ignore tens of billions of dollars taxpayers pour into the system each year. That is deceptive and misleading.
Even if you subtract money for new buildings, Texas still spends around $12,000 per kid, or nearly twice as much what the myth promoters claim.
Texas is spending more money on public education than it ever has. According to TEA data, funding has increased by 51% over the last decade, far outpacing the 7% growth in student attendance.
After increasing education spending by $6.5 billion in 2019, which was lauded as the victory of a century, this year the legislature approved another increase of $10.8 billion in new money. Of that, $6.3 billion is already issued and another $4.5 billion needs to be allocated by Texas lawmakers.
The “no money” myth is false and a distraction.
Governor Greg Abbott has said for months that he would call the legislature into a special session this fall to pass school choice legislation – most likely through the creation of Education Savings Accounts (ESA). Media reports suggest a deal could be brokered that would increase education funding even beyond the $4.5 billion yet to be allocated if ESAs pass.
But it turns out there are things even more important to the establishment than “fully funding” education.
A member of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, which claims to be “the state’s largest educator group and the leading voice in #txed” responded by saying, “We’re not interested in compromising for vouchers to gain school funding. This is a hill that we’re willing to die on. We believe so strongly in public schools that we are not willing to compromise for the governor’s agenda.”
At least we’re getting to the truth now. The group is admitting the priority for the education establishment is to prevent parents from having more and better educational choices, so much so that it is willing to forgo billions of dollars in new education funding.
This admission should shock and appall parents across Texas.
Since there is clearly no potential for negotiation, and the claims of “defunding” or “underfunding” schools have been discredited, lawmakers should focus on the right thing: empowering parents and supporting teachers.