AUSTIN, Texas – A new study, to be released Wednesday by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, explores key issues in school finance, evaluates the tax proposals to fund education, and debunks widely held assumptions about what does and does not influence student achievement.
The Foundation is Texas’ leading market-oriented, non-profit research institution. The study, Effective, Efficient, Fair: Paying For Public Education In Texas, was authored by Richard Vedder, Ph.D., and Joshua Hall.
“This research fundamentally challenges most of the things many of us have assumed about public education and school finance,” said Brooke Rollins, the Foundation’s president.
The authors find that despite decades of expensive reform, the educational success of students in public schools is still primarily determined by the family’s economic status.
“There is still much to be done in raising the educational achievement of children from economically disadvantaged homes,” said Rollins.
The authors find student achievement is generally unaffected by teacher education, paying teachers based on years of experience instead of performance, or smaller class size.
More importantly, Vedder and Hall find higher per-student spending has almost no effect on student achievement in Texas public schools.
Student achievement in Texas public schools is greatest in districts where the adult population has a high degree of college education. Achievement is also greatest where schools are funded primarily by local tax dollars, where student attendance is high, and where there is lower teacher turn-over.
According to the authors’ study, student achievement is improved by focusing on how funds are allocated rather than on the level of funding, and by investing in proven instructional approaches. These findings suggest that education funds must be invested more effectively if schools are to meet state education goals.
Examining various tax proposals to increase state revenues for public schools, the authors find that the benefits of increasing money in public education are not enough to counter the adverse effects of most tax proposals currently under discussion.
The authors find that increasing the overall tax burden will likely decrease the state’s output, personal income, employment, job creation, capital investment, business start-ups and population growth.
In addition, a sales tax has less adverse impact than a gross receipts tax, a business activity tax, or taxes on property and personal income. The authors conclude that a revenue neutral sales tax base expansion with a simultaneous reduction in the sales tax rate is likely to enhance the state’s economic growth.
“This study shows that concerns about the ability of our current tax system to provide sufficient flexibility and revenue growth to pay for growing school enrollment and rising inflation are unfounded,” said Rollins.
According to the authors, “Education spending and education productivity are the real problems that challenge Texas.”
The full study is available online at: www.texaspolicy.com.