A Texas public school teacher was heard on KLBJ radio today saying that Texas is 49th in the nation in school funding with about $8,000 spent per student vs. “$10,000 for those northern states.”
Of course, money spent in our government schools doesn’t equate to results. American public schools have seen a huge increase in inflation-adjusted expenditures over the past 60 years with little to show for it. School performance has less to do with dollars and much to do with teacher quality, system flexibility, parental involvement, and English proficiency.
That understood, the teacher’s statement is fairly easy to check. The National Education Association (NEA)—the national teachers union group—publishes yearly statistics on school funding. According to their latest almanac, Texas’ “public school revenue per student in average daily attendance (ADA), 2012-13” was spent $10,720, placing Texas 39th in the nation. This calculation includes building construction costs.
But the figure the teacher was likely citing was “current expenditures for public K-12 schools per student in ADA, 2012-13” was $8,908, ranking Texas 43rd—closer to the stated 49th, but still, not correct.
Further, neither the NEA nor supporters of more money for the Texas schools without attendant reform—school choice for all—ever consider the effect of cost of living on these rankings. The dollar goes further in Texas than in California. In fact, the cost of living in California is 42 percent higher than in Texas. Texas’ cost of living index in the third quarter of 2014 was 92.9 percent of the national average for things such as housing, food, transportation and utilities.
Applying Texas’ cost index to its public school “current expenditures” per ADA results in real spending of $9,589 per student—far closer to the $10,000 “those northern states” spend.