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Slings & Arrows

Numbers don’t lie — but they sure can cheat


Public education is an important facet of life in Parker County. Good schools are one of the major engines of the economic growth of our county.

And while we might all feel “sticker shock” when we receive our property tax statements each year, it is important to put those numbers in context and to have them understood accurately.

Last year we ran a guest column from a local official advocating for “school choice” which made the statement that it was possible now that public education is “fully funded” in Texas.

Again, a look at your property tax statement will yield another impression entirely.

The Texas Constitution invests the State of Texas with the responsibility of educating children. Yet decade after decade the State Legislature, to one degree or another, has foisted the financial burden of paying for education onto local taxpayers.

The result is two-fold: legislators can pat themselves on their backs that they didn’t raise taxes, while at the local level property taxes have escalated.

Many of those same politicians then run for office railing about high property taxes.

This week I received a message from our state senator, Phil King, “setting the record straight,” saying “In 2023, the Texas Legislature demonstrated an unprecedented commitment to support our 5.4 million public school students.”

To Sen. King I will say “numbers don’t lie, but they sure can cheat.”

King’s post lauded the state government for its commitment to education while lumping in money paid by local taxpayers to support his claim.

According to Sen. King, “the data is indisputable. According to the most recent Texas Education Agency annual report (linked here*), per student annual funding is up 42% since 2011.”

Let’s take a look at those numbers, shall we?

In the report cited by Sen. King (yes, I looked it up), the percentage of that per-pupil spending by the state in 2020-2011 was 42.3 percent, and local taxpayers covered 45.6 percent. (Those numbers don’t add up to 100 because federal funds and “recapture” also contributed to the cost of education.)

In 2022-2023, the state’s percentage of funding had dropped to 31 percent, while local taxpayers were picking up 47 percent, with federal funds increasing to pick up the gap.

But that’s not the only problem with King’s statement quoted above.

One dollar in 2010-11 is about $1.30 now, so there goes 30 of the 42 percent increase in per-pupil spending.

Only a politician could claim the legislature has made an “unprecedented commitment” to supporting students while its percentage of the funding has dropped from 42 percent to 31 percent.

The accompanying chart shows the trends of public education spending in Texas in per-pupil spending from 2010-11 to 2022-23. To be fair, the state’s portion ticked up slightly the last year reported. But to also be fair, the chart does not include “recapture,” which consists of funds paid by local taxpayers that the state takes and distributes to other school districts.

The danger to future planning is that the federal government has been kicking in an increasing percentage, but that’s subject to change based on the politics of any given year.

But let’s get down to why Sen. King’s claims were sent to voters in the first place.

There is a big push from within and without the State of Texas to implement a voucher entitlement program — taking money from Texas taxpayers to pay for private school education.

Multiple millions of dollars were spent during the recent Republican primary to defeat representatives who supported public schools and opposed vouchers.

Unfortunately, they were successful.

With the Texas Senate already firmly in the pockets of very wealthy voucher proponents, the House now appears headed that way as well.

King’s email also incorrectly placed blame on the anti-voucher representatives for the fact that $7 billion additional dollars were not allocated to public education.

Here’s what actually happened.

The bill that went to the House floor contained a voucher provision. The representatives voted to strip the voucher provision from the bill, sending it back to the Public Education Committee. The bill then died in committee. The full House never got the chance to vote on it.

The fault for the failure of the bill lies with voucher proponents who slipped it into the bill knowing it wouldn’t pass.

I do not know why Sen. King would send out such a misleading message claiming to set the record straight. But I do know that if vouchers pass, there will be even less money available from the state to support our important public schools, creating an even larger burden on local property taxpayers.

Whatever the reason, public education and local taxpayers are caught in the crossfire, and the assault on public education is only just beginning.



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  • zimmermannjim

    As a public school teacher for the past 10 years, I have personally experienced the lack of inequality in teachers' salaries decreasing each year. Although some districts say they give a 2% increase for teachers. Break it down. Texas teacher's salary rank 28th at $57,641. At 2%, that is $1,152. That increase does not even cover the cost of living and is less than a half month's salary.

    Most teachers I know, including myself, need a second job just to survive and pay bills. Teachers put in at least 50 hours a week putting lesson plans together, grading papers, after-school meetings, parent-teacher conferences after school, and more items.

    The teacher shortage is mainly due to a lack of financial stability due to red tape. Teachers are facing untold stress, physical assaults and threats by students, and the administration's lack of any kind of discipline. It is time for people in Austin to step up and do the right thing. If something isn't done soon, schools will be shutting down because they can't staff with qualified educators who can and do make a difference!

    Thursday, May 16 Report this