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POLICY ORIENTATION FOR THE TEXAS LEGISLATURE 2014
"Texas School Finance: Finding Real Efficiency, Stopping the Cycle of Litigation"
POLICY PANEL SESSION III (January 9, 2014)
Texas' property tax driven, WADA based school finance structure has been repeatedly established as legally unstable over the last few decades. The state has endured a long series of lawsuits over the means and levels at which it funds its public free schools, but the legal wrangling has yet to produce a sustainable system. We will discuss how the school finance process can be taken out of the court rooms and put back in the hands of the Legislature, as well as meaningful reforms that could be implemented to bring true efficiency to Texas' public schools.
Welcome to our, our very, very large room for discussing school finance this morning. My name is James Golsan. I'm the education policy analyst with the Texas Public Policy Foundation. And as I said today we're, we're discussing school finance and, and how we fund our schools is one of the most important issues that the Texas legislature is tasked with, orchestrating as it impacts literally millions of students and thousands, and thousands and thousands of educators on a, on a year-to-year basis. Historically speaking it's also one of the most controversial issues in, in Texas in Texas politics. Our, our long history of, of finance litigation and is indicative of the fact that we have failed over time to find a viable and sustainable long-term formula. What we have consistently done through the years is increase education spending. We have increased the mandates under which our school districts operate and, and regulated the, the manner in which they have to spend the dollars we do give them and we have grown our administrative ranks and our support staff ranks at a, at a far higher rate than we have grown the ranks of our in-classroom educators.
That's a, that's a very brief look at the environment in, in Texas school finance today. I, I wanna give as much time to our panel as possible so I'm gonna turn it over here early but you know this is, finding, finding a long-term viable solution to Texas school finances or at least bringing stability to the system has, has been a major challenge to date and I'm, I'm hoping that our, our great panelists here can offer their insights on you know where they think we are and what we think solutions can be going forward for our, for our education system. Our first speaker today will be the Honorable Kent Grusendorf. Mr. Grusendorf represented Arlington, Texas from 1987 to 2007 in the Texas Legislature. During that time he served at least for a spell of it as chairman of the Public Education Committee where his and carried school accountability and improvement initiatives for a, a series of governors: Governors Clements, Governor Richards Governor Bush and finally Governor Perry. At the national level he has served on the Southern Regional Educational Board's executive committee and in the past as chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council's education taskforce. Please welcome the Honorable Kent Grusendorf.
Thanks James. I wanna talk to you all about efficiency today and a little bit of the problem that you explained there that we really haven't found a permanent solution to this problem, I think hinges in part because we don't really look at what the Supreme Court has been, has been saying for almost 30 years of litigation. And, but to start off though I wanna think about something with you. What if you had a room full of politicians talking about hey, you know private sector can do it more efficiently? The other saying hey the public sector can do it more efficiently. Some saying hey you gotta have more money. Others saying no, you don't have to have more money. Hey Massachusetts did it they're a bunch of liberals. Don't pay attention to them. Think about this kind of debate. Well, where do you think that debate took place? That debate took place only a few blocks from here in Austin, Texas in 1875. They were debating the Texas Constitution that we currently have in place today. I'm gonna talk to you a little bit about what that Constitution actually says but at the time, in 1875 progressives were trying to socialize education. The debate lasted a long time and there was a lot of compromise and it, and they really had a difficult time reaching a conclusion but it did not, the Texas Constitution does not prescribe the public school or that the ISDs have a monopoly on the education in Texas.
Now I'm criticizing school districts. We got a great, a lotta great school districts around the state but what I, a point I wanna make clear is Texas Constitution does not require that they have a monopoly over educating our kids. That's strictly a legislative decision, but anyway this, this debate went on. They kept going back and forth. Committees couldn't reach a decision. It was really the most contentious issue in 1875 debates and they were reacting to what the Liberals had imposed on them during reconstruction. A very centralized top down system of education, highly bureaucratic, highly centralized and the Constitution in the end in 1875 what it provided for 'em was a, an efficient system and I think that was the compromise language, the, the word efficient didn't show up until it came back in the final language and final compromise that finally passed after a number of other proposals had failed. But it allowed any group of parents to hire a teacher, start a school and be reimbursed from the state. They basically had charter schools in the late 18, early 1900s in the State of Texas. We think, and I carried the charter school for Bu, Bush in '95, we think a charter school's a new concept. It's an old concept folks. It's what they did back then.
Billy Walker and, and Edward III, I believe filed a, with the court, this language of what his interpretation was of the original intent of the Constitution. Look at it. He's saying they were conservative. They didn't wanna top down system. What do we have today? We have a highly regulated system with way too many decisions being made in Austin, Texas. We have thousands of kids, folks that are trapped in underperforming schools. I think the number last year was 314,000 kids trapped in campuses that are unacceptable and we have thousands of teachers that are underpaid in a bureaucratic system which stifles their creativity. We're not spending our money as wisely as we should.
I wanna talk to you about the vital language that they came up with in the Constitutional Debates of 1875. A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation and liberties of the purpose of this clause is the liberties and rights of the people. It shall be the duty in order to protect the liberties and rights, it'll be the duty of the legislature of the state to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools. Now we, we use the term public education today but at the time public free schools does not mean publicly run. It means open to the public and free of tuition. Texas Supreme Court has said, "The Constitution does not dictate the structure of the system." And this back to the point I made earlier. That's a Legislative decision. Fast forward to the 1980s and what, what's been happening in recent litigation over the last three decades. The court ruled in Hunt, all of its rulings on the word efficient in the Texas Constitution, Liberal politicians and the media and others have really sort of shifted that focus and talked about equity, equity. It does not say equity in the Constitution. It says efficiency and the court has consistently said that efficiency means productive of results but all of the talk and all the litigation has been about money.
The Supreme Court has consistently sent a sig, different signal and here I just listed the various cases and just from a personal point of view this first Edgewood 1 decision, the trial court decision came down in my freshman term in the legislature, the West Orange decision came down in my last term in the legislature so I served on the education committees and every select committee that dealt with all these issues over the years so I was pretty involved in, in the school finance problem. And we didn't solve it folks. Look at what the Supreme Court has said. They said in Edgewood 1 and they have repeated this in every, every one of the lawsuits since that time. Efficient conveys the meaning of effective or product, or productive of results and connotes the use of resources so as to produce results with little waste. Now why does the Supreme Court keep saying that? I think because they mean it. But what happened? In 2011 and again the school, 2000 school districts in the state filed suit against the state for more money and more equity. They didn't mention efficiency as the court talked about it and productive results. So 2011 school districts, in 2012 we intervened, the Texas Association of Business Tree and Fine Families, we intervened and put the issue of efficiency before the courts. The judge never ruled. Last year he talked about what he was gonna rule but he never issued a written ruling so there in ten days he's opening up the lawsuit against State testimony about what's happened in 2013 session, but now unlike every other one of the cases in the past, the true issue of efficiency is before the court.
They all, the prior cases all focused on money, money for school districts. Really students have been used as pawns in this process folks. The stakeholders have been driving the process and taxpayers been expected to pick up the tab, but the Supreme Court has consistently invited a broader question of efficiency and productive with results. We RSVP’d to that request by the court and here I'm gonna cite a few of the times that the court's suggested that we needed to do this. We have not been called upon to consider for example improvements in education which could be realized by eliminating gross waste in the bureaucratic administration of the system. That's pretty straightforward. We've not been called upon. It is true that the plaintiffs have focused on funding. We cannot dictate how the parties present their case or reject their contingents simply because we would prefer to address others so now we have the issue which I believe they're asking for, of efficiency before the courts. There's three decades of litigation. The system basically, the legislature created school districts. The system's basically screwing itself. We got one branch of government suing another branch of government for more money 'cause this branch of government didn't give this branch of government enough money. There's something wrong with that system.
Texas Supreme Court in West Orange said in Edgewood 3 we explained that all of the issues brought before us in Edgewood 1, Edgewood 2 and Edgewood 3 have all been limited to financing of the public schools as opposed to other aspects of their operation. Money is not the only issue and money is not the only solution but what if all the press coverage and most of the litigation coverage and this, by the school districts been about, it's been about more money. To quote the court again, while we consider the financial component of efficiency to be implicit in the Constitution's mandate the qualitative component is explicit. Efficiency is explicit. Adequacy and equity are only implicit and this is the first time in 30 years of litigation that the true issue of efficiency has been before the courts and there hasn't been a lotta news coverage on this case. Most of the news coverage has still been about more money for school districts. For the first time the real issue of what's best for kids, what's real equity for kids, real efficiency for the system is now before the courts.
We don't anticipate a positive ruling from the trial judge in Austin, Texas or Travis County but we do anticipate that we have answered the invitation of the Texas Supreme Court, Court and we expect to win at the Supreme Court level. Footnote here, the Texas Supreme Court even suggests that school choice. They said perhaps public education could benefit from more competition but the parties have not raised that argument and therefore we do not address it. The argument is now before the courts. Folks, we can and we must do a better job of educating our kids. Nothing in this state and in this country is more important than the education of our youth. We have to keep in mind we all sort of, you know we all support our schools, public schools. You gotta keep in mind schools are only important to the extent that they benefit kids. Every school is not perfect for every child and no child is a perfect fit for every school. What's the question? Is it about kids or is it about institutions? The system I think in order to meet the constitutional mandate must be restr-, restructured to produce meaningful results for kids and here's another quote from the court. There is substantial evidence which again districts have court accredited that public education system has reached a point where continued improvement will not be possible add some significant change, whether that change take the form of increased funding, improved efficiencies, or better methods of education.
The court has consistently been asking that the Legislature address real restructure of the system. In order to meet constitutional efficiency in my opinion Legislature must eliminate mandates that prohibits school districts and superintendents from making rational choices about their staffing. I mean our labor laws are absolutely ridiculous folks and they harm kids. The labor laws are in place to protect adults. Nothing in those labor laws is there for efficiency as a con, as the Constitution requires or to protect kids. We need to take full advantage of today's technology. I put a decade on here but I really do believe that our school system as compared to other professions is probably two or three decades behind other professions that use technology. Think about it folks. You walk into Wal-Mart or something, you buy something. Today's technology they know at the manufacturer's level that that product has been sold and that they're gonna re, need to restock it. What do we do with kids? We have a stupid statewide system that analyzes where they are every, once a year and not every year, just some years. We need to be tracking these students on a daily basis. We need to free teachers up to do a better job. Stop putting, imposing all these mandates on them. Allow superintendents to do a better job. The system has to be changed to allow rational decisions to be made for the benefit of kids.
We gotta locate our money but we spend between $50 and $60 billion a year in the State of Texas public education. A quarter of our kids don't graduate. Of those that go to college almost a half of 'em have to take remedial classes. We're doing something wrong folks. What's the future of our state and our society gonna look like if we don't do something better than we're doing today? We've got to get rid of these state mandates. Every, every bit of research says that the greater the autonomy at the campus level the better results you have for kids. People closest to the kids can make the best decisions for kids but yet we make way too many decisions in Austin, Texas. Most importantly in my opinion you're never going to have an efficient system unless you stop restricting supply, allow more charter schools. Why is there any cap on charter schools? There's no rational reason for it except to protect stakeholders and unions and interest groups. If it benefits kids let them go there. We need to allow for supply side change and we need to allow for consumer choice. Scholarships, tax credits, taxpayer savings grants. We need to do everything we can to allow every child to have the best possible education in the State of Texas. Thank you.
Thank you Kent. Pulling up our second presentation here. Sure. All right. Our second speaker today is Representative James Frank. He is entering his second, second term in the Texas legislature in 2015 following a long career in finance. He has a degree in finance from Texas A&M University.
Thank you very much. Thank you to both of you.
I, I'm a, I'm a Longhorn so.
Get over that.
He's done banking business in a long career in Fort Worth and from his hometown in I believe your hometown, Wichita Falls. This is a man that knows numbers. Please welcome Representative James Frank.
All right. Thank you all for being here and being a part of this very important topic and I appreciate TPPF hosting this forum and I especially appreciate them putting me between two experts 'cause it would make it very awkward for y'all to walk out while I'm talking, so appreciate that. You know one of the things I found in my first session was one of the real challenges you have in communicating on the floor or in, politics is definitions. When we use words sometimes they mean different things to different people and I'm gonna talk about efficiency today as Mr. Grusendorf did but I wanna define it first because efficiency means one thing to me and of course define it one way, the Constitution may define it another way and so I wanna define it for you the way I'm gonna use it. Efficiency is really using a given set of resources to fulfill your goal as well as possible. Okay? It's using a set of resources, in this case we're talking money, to fulfill the goal and obviously public education the goal is educating kids. Okay? So at the end of the day when I'm saying efficiency I am not making a value statement on whether we have enough or too much. That's a great debate. We have it all the time but that's not what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about here is whether or not we are spending the money that we have in the way that best helps the kids and I'm gonna show you some data to point that out.
So I'm not discussing adequacy. So that's the first definition. The second definition I wanna talk about is numbers. One of the other frustrations I have is every time somebody sends me a set of numbers they always have an amazing amount of bias in them. Okay? And so the first thing I always ask is where are you getting these numbers 'cause frankly people make up a numbers a lot. I see, I see nods from my fellow members and centers that are here yeah 'cause we get numbers that are not accurate and so I'm always very careful where I get numbers. , my numbers are not always perfect but I always try to go to source data and it is consistent over time because the other thing we have a really great habit of doing is changing the way we're accounting for things part of the way through. So the source of my numbers comes from TEA and actually the, it's really because that's the first place I looked when I started studying a subject. They have a TEA pocket edition which is a great thing. You oughta pick it up and they've been doing for it about 20 years so when I asked Jim Johnson, my chief of staff, to get me the numbers he went back as far as the directory was which was 20 years and so that's what you're gonna look at is a 20-year number.
Now the reason I didn't go any further and the reason I wanted to show the full 20 years frankly is that's a great, 20 years is a great data point because 20 years is enough to see real trends but we're not talking about the '40s and '50s. Most of us are old enough in here to actually remember 1991, okay and so I think the information is important. The final thing I wanna clarify when I talk about numbers is I always talk about numbers, the total revenue coming in, the total expenditures for a school, not just the state, not just the state expenditure. One of the most frustrating things, I sat in the education finance deal two years ago as a candidate and I kept hearing people talk about $5,000.00 per, per kid and I was like why are they talking about $5,000.00 and up per kid because I was looking at a TEA pocket directory and it was showing 11,500 and I was, then I realized no, they're just talking about the state. They're not talking about the local. They're not talking about the Federal and the reality is in order to get a really efficient look somebody has to look at the global picture, not just our own myopic view of what we are spending as a state because at the end of the day the Constitution is requires it upon us to provide the education system and so it really is primarily a state responsibility and so when I talk about it – in fact I would tell people that, you know a lotta times people say well yeah we didn't have three revenue sys, or we have three sources of revenues for schools because we need it. No we don't. Okay? We say there's three. There's Federal, State and local. There's not three. There's one who's the taxpayer. That's it.
The money comes all outa the same pocket. What we do have in the State is we have three collection mechanisms. We have three revenue redistribution mechanisms and then worst of all we have three places that make rules. Okay? You wonder why, you wonder why you have trouble being efficient. That's part of it. So with all that being said, those are the definitions I wanna go in and then I've got two assumptions that I would like to make and see if you agree with. One is that based on my definition of efficiency almost everybody except the most crazy person wants us to be more efficient with the money that we spend. It is in everyone's best interests to spend whatever money, when we have these long debates and we finally get to a number that we spend, everybody should want that money spent as well as possible. I hope, I hope we can agree on that. I'm sure there's some vendors out there that maybe don't want it. They wanna you know but, but by and large I think everybody on all sides of the political aisle whether you think $11,500 is the right number or you think it should be $1,000.00 a year or you think it should be $100,000.00 a year, once we decide on that number everybody wants it to be spent well to most benefit the kid. So that's, that's the first assumption. And the second assumption and I think everybody will agree with this 'cause I think test after test would say that, or I'm sorry study after study would show that after the home environment the most important thing is to a school's ability to educate kids is having high quality well-trained motivated teachers in the classroom; that after the home environment which is always number one the most important thing is having highly trained motivated teachers in the classroom, that that's where the rubber meets the road. All of the other stuff that may be necessary to run a school is important, but it's not the primary. So if you're gonna be efficient, you're gonna try to focus your dollars on, you're gonna get the biggest bang for your buck. Right? If you want the money to be spent well, you're gonna spend it on that.
So with all that being said, I want to take a look at just the numbers. And, again, straight from TEA, of how we have done over the last 20 years in the State of Texas at directing our dollars into the classroom. So this is a chart. It shows back in '91 we had 3 million. For those of you who can't read it – I know a lot are in the back, so I'll read the, the important parts. Three million 500,000 or 3 million 4 3, 500,000 kids back 20 years ago. Ten years later, we've got 5 million kids. That's a 44 percent increase, so keep that number in your mind. It's a 44 percent increase. Now, how have we done on education if teachers are the most important, and how have we done at keeping up with the teachers that we are financing? So here you go in '91, and ya'll can't read that so go ahead and go to the end. We have now 324,000 teachers. I'm sorry, back in, about 20 years ago, we had 212,000, and now we've gone up to 324,000 teachers. That's a 52 percent increase with a 44 percent increase in kids. We have a 52 percent increase in teachers. And that's pretty good. And this is just the professional teachers. This doesn't count – I've excluded from everything, I've excluded teacher's aides, administrative secretaries on the other side. Now, that's, that's pretty good. But before you pat yourself on the back too much, that's not a huge increase considering the money that we've put in, and really, if you use different years, you might have slightly different results other than 8 percent. You might have a little less, you might have a little more. But certainly, at a minimum, we have kept up with the number of teachers in the classroom.
So why am I up here? It's the next slide. We're gonna show you the same number of student population, and then this number right here is the other professional staff. This is other professional staff in the classroom. And just to give you an idea, and we can talk about it in a Q&A if we want, professional staff's average salary is $61,000 a year compared to the average teacher, which is just under $50, 000. So these are people that the sum total of our collective decisions that the state lo- or fed-, or excuse me, the Federal, State and Local that we've said these are even more important to have than teachers. You know what growth that is? That's going from 39,800 to 83,000 in 20 years for a 210 percent growth. Let me put that in –
That's not (unintelligble.) 212 percent would be like 120,000. Those **** numbers.
No, it's 210. It's more than double. It's just over double. I appreciate that, but –
That'd be 110 percent
Starts out at 170 (unintelligible.)
Can we agree that it's a doubling and move from there? It's a doubling. It's more than double.
It's too much.
It's too much. Thank you very much.
Yeah, we – thank you very much. Check that. All right. So yeah, where – so that, that number, I want to, I want to convert that to some numbers that may be meaningful to you. Let's pretend for a minute. Let's go – 'cause I, I don't think for a second that 20 years ago the Federal government and the State government got together and said you know what, to improve the educational performance of kids, we need to go crazy with the other professional staff. We need to do everything we can to increase that. You know, we need to keep up the teachers, but we need to really go nuts with the edu- – I don't think that happened. But the reality is the sum total of our legislative actions at the Federal level and the State level and at the District level have caused that to happen. If we had just kept the growth and other professionals at the same growth as kids, if we had done it at 44 percent and said okay, we need, these people are important, but we're gonna keep it at the same rate. You want to guess how many teachers that we could hire with the exact same amount of money? Thirty three thousand, eight hundred teachers. You could have 33,000 more teachers at the five, at the $50,000 pay rate in Texas classrooms. That's a 10 percent increase. Or if you say you know what, we have enough teachers, we just don't pay them enough. There's a billion six, 1.6 billion dollars spent here outside of the classroom that should've and could've been spent inside the classroom.
So, hopefully, you would agree at least that that is a concern, that that is something that ought to be addressed, and, frankly, it's a trend that needs to stop very quickly. I think the question always – and this is much harder is why did it happen? 'Cause I really, like I said, I don't think this was a plot. I think it just happened. And it happened because of the unintended consequences of our actions. I've got a couple of illustrations of why I think it happened. The first is a little cartoon – oh, I'm sorry. Yeah, cartoon. And, again, I didn't realize the room would be quite so long, but this is your puppet of educators. You have the Federal government, again, handing out money and rules; State government, money and rules; and school districts. Or Local with money and rules. If you – this is what your school districts get. If you haven't talked to a superintendent, this is the Board Policy manual from TASB, and I am quite certain that it's got great stuff in there, and if some TASB people are in here I'm certain there's some great stuff in here. I just happen to have a guy that works for me that's on the TASB board, so he let me get that. So that's really helpful to, with educating kids. Here's the Texas school law bulletin that goes to all of your districts. This is this year's update. This is not all of 'em. This is this year's update. Okay? And the problem with all of that is somebody has to write 'em, and who pays for those? We do.
Somebody has to read 'em at your district level. Who pays for that? We do. Then somebody gets to audit that. Who pays for that? And then we get into a whole system of this government entity fighting this government entity and fighting, you know, fighting each other, and the whole time, none of it, none of those people that we're talking about are doing one thing to help educate the kids. None. And at the end of the day, we have to address it. And so I want to leave you optimistic, not pessimistic. At the end of the day, I think if we can spend half as much energy discussing how to efficiently and effectively spend money that we do on how much money to spend, because all of the discussion that we have, all of the discussion we have is how much. And at the end of the day, we're never ever gonna solve that. No matter how much money we spend, we're gonna have a significant group saying it's not enough, and we're gonna have a significant group saying it's too much. We need to spend much more time having discussions of how we get money better spent in the classrooms, and I think if we do that, then students, and, for that matter, teachers, if we address this in Texas, we'd be much better off. Thank you.
Thank you, Representative Frank. Our final presenter for today is Gary Godsey. , Gary is the almost brand new executive director –
– of the Association of Texas Professional Educators, which I believe is the largest such group in the State of Texas.
Mm hmm. In the nation.
In the nation. Gary, thank you.
Thank you. Well, I have an aspiration today. It's to get one Amen out of this gentleman sitting in the front row, and I bet it doesn't happen. Thank you for inviting me today. You know, they, they gave me credit for being an expert. I'm not an expert on education. I am an expert, perhaps, on organizational development, on building out systems, on understanding how you aspire to develop programs and then get them funded property. And perhaps, you could call me an expert in that area, but not in education. I think it's an advantage for me on this job actually, as the executive for the Association of Texas Professional Educators. I want you to know about our organization. We're not a union. Everyone thinks we're a union. In fact, our, one of our major tenets is we stand for the right to work. We oppose collective bargaining, and we also oppose any kind of strikes by professional educators in the State of Texas to get something they want. We have 110,000 members in the State of Texas, about 95,000 of them are actually classroom teachers. We have about 10,000 administrators who are part of ATPE, and then the rest are paraprofessionals and others. We are an inclusive organization, not just limited just to classroom teachers.
So we've got a pretty powerful voice. We've got a lot of information. We listen to our members very carefully, and one of the things that I've been trying to do is listen more than talk over the last six months, as I've become the Executive of the organization. So my perspective is coming to you certainly as the Executive of ATPE, but it's also coming to you as a parent who sent their kids to Texas public schools, who graduated two phenomenal professional adults now. They're in their 30s who are extremely successful, 'cause they had the advantage of going to school in Texas public schools. And I think that they were more well-rounded, perhaps, than they could have been in other states we've lived in because they got a pretty good experience here in Texas. A couple of things about me just to set the tone for what I'm gonna talk about. I was a national CEO of a foundation based in Kansas City, Missouri for the last two years. I had a brief, brief lapse in judgment and left Texas to be convinced to run this national foundation. I spent three, three days a week on an airplane coast to coast somewhere in America for 52 weeks of 2012. And I came home in January of 2013, and I told my wife, we'd only made it to Kansas City six months earlier because our house took a while to sell in Dallas, I can't do this. I'm not gonna spend the next six or eight years of my working career, whatever it is, on an airplane somewhere in America.
I want to get passionate about something where I can make a difference. And I know it sounds corny, and ATPE presented itself, and now the rest is history. I couldn't be prouder to be associated with public education. 5.1 billion students in the State of Texas about 700,000 new students in the system since the decade began of 2000. The impact that we will have on the nation and the world by, by graduating these students is just gonna be amazing. So we have a responsibility and a duty, I think, to make sure that public education gets its fair shake in terms of funding. And we can debate the numbers until we're blue in the face. I think it's about $8,500.00 a student that gets spent on Texas public school students. The Legislative Budget Board says in real constant dollars for inflation related that we're spending exactly the same amount of money we were spending in 2003 on public education in 2013. So I, that came straight – I don't know. I mean, I'm looking this stuff up like you are, and I'm learning it. But I think they're a pretty neutral body, and they, and you can look at the numbers yourself.
I don't think money's the key to all of this by any means, but it's certainly a factor, and it, and you can debate whether Texas is 40th or 49th in per-people spending, but it's down there, and that's, that's just a fact. So what I'd like to today is change the conversation just a little bit if possible. And I'd like to talk about aspirations as opposed to historical funding. How do we aspire to build a system? First of all, that does what James Golsan said, and I want to begin with the end. He wrote an article on December the 13th, he wrote it – by the way, don't ever put anything in print you don't want to see in the Austin American States to have somebody read from the podium. And the last sentence wrapped it up for me. "Let's put students first – period.” "If we all embrace that and agree that we can put students first, then the rest of this stuff potentially could take care of itself."
You've got an Amen.
Okay. Good. I like it. And you said it, you said it, I agree with it. Let's put students first. I want to paint a brief scenario for you. Imagine yourself in a classroom with 22 kids, 100 percent on free lunch, 14 have no parents. They're either being raised by a grandparent, which is pretty prevalent, a foster parent or they have no parents. They might have parents, but parents aren't parenting. Eight students had to translate the parent-teacher conference because only Spanish or another language, Vietnamese was one of the languages being spoken in this classroom. So a student had to translate for the teacher, who is a master-level teacher, the parent-student conference. The teacher spent $2,133.00 out of her pocket that year for school supplies for making sure that all 22 students had the stuff on the list that the district puts out because she knew that when the student showed up, the 14 of them on free lunch or reduced lunch, that they probably wouldn't have the resources, and she spent numerous amounts of money out of her pocket. Her final salary was $41,136.00 with 28 years' experience. She was told she had to teach to the test, that she could no longer capture a teachable moment anymore, she couldn't teach civics. She broke up a fight on the playground where she put her hand on one student's chest, a first grader beating up a second grader, and she was sued by one of the parents who said you can't touch my child.
There's no discipline, and the threat of lawsuits caused her to retire in 2008. That's my wife who was a lifelong educator who gave her heart and soul, mostly in Texas, but was driven out of the classroom because of those conditions. That's gotta change. I think there's a few fundamental things at ATPE we believe in. We believe in local control. We think that public education dollars ought to be driven into the public education system. It sounds simple, but it's really not. A lot of people would like to divert dollars to vouchers and other things. And I was on a radio show recently – and I'm just telling you my experience. And a caller called in and said ATPE, you guys are a bunch of jokes because you won't support vouchers. And I said to him, what are you gonna do if we give you an $8,000.00 voucher and you want to send your kid to a private school, how are you gonna pay the differential, the $12,000.00 differential that you're gonna have to come up with to send your kid to a private school?
Texas schools already have choice. I mean, if you want to, in many districts, if you want to move your child from one school to another, you can do that. And I think there's a law, and I'm not sure about what the law actually says, but if you're in a, if your child is in a under-performing school for three years, I think you can apply to get them moved. Now, the availability of spots in schools and this kind of thing is not always there. So the scenario certainly is one that needs to be fixed. I would like, and we would like at ATPE, to have a, a dialogue about what would the optimum system look like, how would we do some of the things that the representatives have talked about, which is remove some of the obstacles to really focusing on the child. Let me just give you just a couple of things that we think are gonna be important. The goals and mandates are definitely a problem. When the target moves every two years when the legislature decides to meet, that's a problem. I was meeting yesterday with a number of other teacher organizations with the commissioner of education, and one of the things that was clear, whether you're union or not a union, is, you know, teachers get asked every two years to change the way they're evaluated to the targets changed. How many of you in your profession literally have something changed that often on you? It's very difficult to get growth and achievement when, when the target's moving.
Teaching is not a destination profession. Did ya'll know that 24, there was a 24 percent reduction in teacher certification last year in the State of Texas? In 2012, 24 percent fewer people got teacher certifications. How many people knew that in 2012 the lines crossed on traditionally certified teachers and alternatively certified teachers? In fact, 51 percent of the 18,000 certificates that were issued in the State of Texas went to alternatively certified educators; people who did not go through a traditional UT, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, you name it, program. So it's not a destination profession any longer. Could you blame people for not choosing teaching as a destination program in the future? So, so as we look at what we have to do I think there's some things that have to be acknowledged. If you're a black or Hispanic student in the State of Texas, you're four times more likely to be enrolled in the state's poorest schools. Period. No, no debating it. If you're in a high poverty district, you have significantly fewer high quality teachers. It's just a fact. It's, and that's by the evaluation systems that we currently have set up. If you're a student from a low-income family, proven fact, you have little to no chance of being tested for the gifted and talented programs in this state. And lastly, if you are a student who is eligible for free or reduced priced meals, you are highly likely, more than ten times more likely, to be enrolled in a low performing school.
I didn't want to go into the social aspect of this today, but poverty is a major driver of educational success. 25 percent of the kids in the Texas school systems have a BMI of more than 25, which means they're medically obese, which means that their ability to learn, their potential to get diabetes, to get health problems. Dental problems are the No. 1 reason for absenteeism in schools today. Kids have teeth problems that aren't being fixed. So this is bigger than just the amount of money we're spending on education per capita. It's a whole systemic issue that has to be addressed and acknowledging that if you want to keep Vicky Godsey, my wife, in the classroom, give her a little chance to do what she can really do, which is educate students, take the time. She told me last night, she said, you know, I gave up on teachable moments five to ten years before I actually – 'cause I couldn't do it. I practiced the PACTS test, STAR test, the whatever it is every day in my classroom, every day. Every day, that's all I did. I didn't teach any civics. I didn't teach other things. So the scenario that we're facing is one that can be, I think, can be fixed certainly. And I think that money is one of the things, but it's not the only thing. , collectively, I think we can all aspire to do what Mr. Golsan said, which is put students first in the State of Texas. Now I expected we'd have, we'd have some disagreement. I don't, you know, I don't have, hear a lot of disagreement on, on, you know, on this. I think that we can disagree maybe on the amount of money and resources that we put into it and whether that's really gonna change things or not.
In closing, there were, there were a couple of things that I, that I plucked out. Again, I'm learning right now. I'm not an educational expert, but there's something called the NAEP, which is the National, whatever it stands, it's Educational Professions – okay. Okay. I just want to read this to you because, to me, it was powerful. Does more money matter? Effective spending. Overall, the study found that among students from similar family backgrounds, those who come from states with higher per-people spending do better on the NAEP. Just as importantly, the higher scoring states tend to spend their funds in certain ways. Getting to what the representative was talking about. They tend to spend their funds on programs designed to lower people-teacher ratios, support pre-K. I know that if a kid doesn't speak at least 300 to 400 words by the time they get to kindergarten, they're gonna be two grades behind. It's a fact. So if we aren't taking care of kids to get them up to speed even before they get to kindergarten, there's a problem. The third one is provide teachers with adequate resources, and then the fourth is then reduce the need to hire inexperienced teachers by reducing teaching turnover.
Stabilizing the teaching profession is gonna be key. And I spoke to a aspiring group of students from Houston Tillotson College and, I mean, they were bright eyed and ready to tackle the world. And I also heard from the commissioner yesterday that some universities are coming up with unique programs where they are demanding, and we believe this at ATPE that the bar ought to be raised on who becomes a teacher. If you have a 2.0 grade point average, you shouldn't get a teaching certificate. I mean, we believe that. You should raise your bar on that. And these students are have the aspiration to make a difference in the lives of kids in Texas. So with that, thank you for allowing me to ramble on just a little bit and give you a little bit of what I'm viewing, and I appreciate your attention and look forward to any questions you might have. Thank you.
Gary, thank you very much. We have about 20 minutes for Q&A. And Alice this room is so big, do you think you could walk around with a microphone? And if ya'll could please wait for her to get to you when I, when I call you. Again, the acoustics are kind of weird in a room this long, so it'll be much easier for everyone to hear your question if if she can get the mike to you. So with that, does anybody have questions? Yes, ma'am, right here up front.
Mr. Godsey, what are some of the solutions? You've raised my hopes that maybe you have some solutions. What are they?
Well, they're we, we believe that, like I just said, that we should aspire to get, to get teachers more rigorously certified in the State of Texas. We believe that that's important, that you know, oftentimes, many of our members say, you know, a person who comes in alternatively certified hasn't had the classroom experience, and that could or could not be true. But we also have to embrace the fact that there are people coming into the profession who didn't go through traditional programs. So concentrating on how we can develop teachers, how we can give them a good experience. And then the commissioner told me yesterday that teachers graduating from Dallas Baptist University can go back for tune-ups at no charge back to the university. Good idea. Good idea.
The third thing they have to have an active mentor. Everybody I've talked to in the teaching profession said that they're biggest disappointment was in their first year of teaching, even though they were assigned a mentor, it was like this. Your erasers are over there. Your magic markers are there. There's paper there. Good luck. So developing and cultivating an active mentorship program is gonna be important. The, the third piece is addressing the community from a global standpoint is the point, as opposed to just viewing it from a school standpoint. I'm tell – I worked for United Way for 30 years. I ran the United Way in Dallas, in Austin, two other states, and, you know, it didn't matter what your politics are, Democrat, Republican, left, right, poverty is the huge issue in educating students and aspiring to give them a way to get past some of the obstacles is one of the solutions.
We invented a program in Dallas called Destination Graduation, and we put it in the three lowest-performing high schools up there, totally turned it around. But it was a complete comprehensive set of services that was being given to students who didn't have the opportunity to get it on their own. So those are just a few general ideas about what we might be doing. But the fifth one, give the teachers a chance to develop the program. Give them a chance to come in and really tell you what's going to work and not gonna work. And lastly, I haven't met a teacher yet who's afraid of an evaluation. But a test score by itself is not an evaluation; not when you look at all the other factors that go into that. So too long an answer, but –
It seems like this debate is parallel with the one we're having on healthcare right now. And where we're either gonna perfect a very large, centralized system with all of its rules, like are sitting right there, or we're gonna focus on the where everything happens, which is either between the doctor and the patient or between the teacher and a student. That's where the learning is happening. And my question is to Chairman Grusendorf and with the response from the other panelists is that you have any expert witnesses talk about in that trial about what the impact would be on teachers if you had more competition and more choice for, for parents? Because it seems like most of the private schools I know of have very few administrators, and everything is focused on well-paid teachers and good classroom environment for kids and where the learning takes place. Was that addressed in the trial?
Absolutely. And, and Jeff, thank you for that question. We didn't set that up, but I wish we had. That's, that's a, that's a great question. Because, yeah, in the trial, one of the really interesting aspects of this, and you were talking about the school of choice issue, and I want to correct a couple points you made there, if I can, as well in a minute when we get back to it, James. But during the trial, the school districts hired a Harvard expert Dr. Jacob, I can't remember his last name now. I just blanked out. But anyway, the expert, the Harvard expert the school districts hired, Jacob Vigdor is his name, Dr. Jacob Vigdor, testified that we shouldn't have school choice in Texas, folks, 'cause you know what? School districts would have to pay their teachers more. The competition for their services would drive up teacher pay. And that wouldn't be good because school districts have to pay teachers more. When an expert from the state, one of the witnesses from the state, another economist, said hey, under oath, these people testified under oath, if you had school choice, teacher salaries would go up due to competitive pressures.
Where our own witness for the efficiency interveners said hey our research indicates that metropolitan area teachers would make as much as $12,000.00 a year more than they make today in a competitive environment, such environment that the taxpayer savings grant program would cost in the State of Texas. So I think this is one of the best kept secrets in the State of Texas and nationally that teacher pay is actually repressed, and this is one of the issues that I had on, alluded to in my slide, but didn't have enough time to go into it. Because of the monopsonistic system, not monopoly, but monopsonistic, and monopoly is where you have one provider. A monopsony is when you have one buyer. So because we restrict the buyers, school districts have a virtual monopoly over hiring teachers, and, therefore, they can keep the salaries lower than they otherwise would be in a free market.
And one of the great, bad, I mean, teachers would win if you have more competition, students would win if you had more competition, taxpayers would win because, if you had more competition. And back on the competition issue, our research indicates that the average private school is not $12,000.00, folks. In fact, most private schools in the State of Texas, most Catholic schools in the State of Texas, which are the biggest private school providers in the State are about $5,000.00 for a K-12 education. So this $12,000.00 is just a smokescreen. Let's look at the facts. Sure, you have the Hockadays and the very elite institutions, but the rank-and-file kids could go to school, and one other thing, folks, while I've got the floor, James. Would you pull up that YES Prep slide?
I'm not sure I know which one that is. I can try to.
It's back on the – it's a part, it wasn't part of my presentation. It was back at the tail end.
Tail end? Okay. Got it.
During trial, under oath, we had testimony about YES Prep Academy, and, and you were talking about the disadvantaged kids, and the, you know, we have problems with demographics. There is a definite correlation between demographics and achievement. YES Prep Academy has about 70 or 80 percent of their kids economically disadvantaged. 100 percent of them go to college. They spend less money than we do in the State of Texas. We need to free teachers and