In his ruling in the Texas school finance trial on Tuesday, 250th District Court Judge John Dietz speculated that Texas public schools would need around $2,000 more per pupil to adequately educate Texas students. That’s a total of between $10 and $11 billion more than the over $50 billion Texas spent last session. But would there be definitive benefit to that spending?
Texas currently spends $9,446 dollars per pupil, according to the National Education Association. Once you adjust for Texas’ low cost of living, that’s 97 percent of the national average. If we were to inject $2,000 more per student, we’d be comfortably above it. Moreover, we would be the second largest cost of living adjusted spender among the country’s 8 largest states, trailing only Pennsylvania.
While Texas does have a slightly higher student/teacher ratio than Pennsylvania (14.5 to 1 vs. 14 to 1), their spending has not equated to success. Texas’ NAEP (National Assessment for Education Progress) scores are mostly better than theirs at our current funding level. Further, Pennsylvania ties with Michigan for lowest NAEP scores among those same 8 large states.
There are plenty of problems in the Texas education system. Throwing money blindly at them is not a solution. Comprehensive reform that includes improvements in school choice and learning technologies—that is to say, reforms that address the needs of a massive, enormously diverse student body—is the path we should be taking. Unfortunately, Judge Dietz’ initial school finance ruling only goes to re-enforce the idea that money will solve everything for Texas schools and students.