Captain Nemo, the antihero in Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” Captain Nemo is striving to reach the great depths of the ocean. It seem that our Texas governor and his band of merry legislatures are equally trying to reach the great depths. Texas ranks at or near the bottom in many categories.
There have been two reports publish over the last decade. In 2006, the State Comptroller’s Office published a report “Texas: Where We Stand”
. In 2011, the Texas Legislative Study Group produced a report “Texas On the Brink”
. Each report contains similar information about the status of Texas in comparison to all other states.
Tax Revenue Raised per Capita, #46
Tax Expenditures per Capita, #47
Sales Tax per Capita, #15
The 2011 Facts and Figures From Texas on the Brink:
· A 2009 study named Texas’ tax system as one of the ten most regressive states in the nation.
· A 2009 study found that Texas requires families in the bottom 20 percent of the income scale to pay more than three-and-a-half times as great a share of their earnings in taxes as the top one percent.
· The poor in Texas pay 12.2 percent of their income in taxes, the fifth highest percentage in the country.
Based on the Tax data above, there is room to raise more revenue and spend more. Also, our tax system needs to be overhauled. I am not suggesting an income tax but a taxation system that is fair and meets the needs of the people of this state. Our sales tax is at a level that it should not be increased.
In the Fall of 2005, Texas ranked #2 in public school enrollment. In 2011, ranked #2 but with an increase from 4,383,871 to 4, 912,385. In a six-year period, there was an increase of 528,515 students. This is an average of 88, 085 students per year.
- In 2006, Texas ranked #50 in percent of Texans with a high school diploma (Only 78.5 percent of Texan 25 years of age or older had a high school diploma in 2004. In 2011, Texas still ranks #50 in Texans 25 years of age or older with a high school diploma.
- In 2006, Texas ranked #33 in Average Teacher Salaries. In 2011, Texas also ranked #33 in Average Teacher Salaries. As noted in the “Texas: Where Are We” report, Texas teacher salaries are not keeping pace with the national average.
- In 2006, Texas ranked #40 in Expenditures per pupil. In 2011 Texas ranked #44…Going the wrong direction.
- In 2006, Texas ranked #49 in verbal SAT scores in the nation (493) and #46 in average math SAT scores (502). In 2011 Texas was ranked #45 in SAT scores. There has been some progress in this area but yet we are still in the bottom ten percent.
- In 2006, Texas ranked #36 in High School Graduation Rate (68%). In 2011 Texas Ranked #43. As we increase standards, we also increase the number of students that fail to complete high school.
A short summary:
Texas is ranked #2 for student population with a #46 ranking for Tax Revenue per Capita and #47 rank for Tax Expenditures per Capita. When you compare that to the average ranking of the five categories above, Texas has fallen from average rank of #42.3 to #43.
The 2011 Facts and Figures From Texas on the Brink:
Children and Families:
· 49 percent of children in Texas live in low-income families – families whose household income is twice the federal poverty level – as opposed to 42 percent nationwide.
· 87 percent of children, whose parents do not have a high school degree live in low-income families, compared to 30 percent of children whose parents have some college education.
· In Texas, 66 percent of Latino children and 59 percent of black children live in low-income families, compared to 25 percent of white children.
· 48 percent of children in urban areas and 55 percent of children in rural areas live in low-income families.
· The maximum Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) grant for a family of three with no income is $250 per month in Texas, ranking 45th amongst the states.
· In FY 2010, the average monthly benefit for Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) recipients in Texas was $26.86, the lowest in the nation. The national average was $41.52.
· 24 percent of poor children in Texas are uninsured as compared to 17 percent nationwide
· 79% of 4th graders in families with low incomes were at a basic performance level in math in comparison to 95% of whites.
· 69% of 8th graders in families with low incomes were at a basic performance level in math in comparison to 89% of whites.
· One in three high school teachers serving the highest percentages of low-income students lack full certification in the subjects they are teaching.
· Nearly 30 percent of the teachers in the highest-poverty schools are not fully certified in mathematics including algebra I, one of the most important courses in high school.
· Almost half of English I teachers working in high schools with the highest proportion of African-American students lack certification in English.
The following are the differences – or achievement gaps – between the average scale scores of the following groups of Texas students in the 2008-2009 school year:
Whites & Hispanic Students
4th grade math: 20
8th grade math: 24
4th grade reading: 22
8th grade reading: 22
White & Black Students
4th grade math: 23
8th grade math: 28
4th grade reading: 19
8th grade reading: 25
· In Texas, only 30.7 percent of the population aged 25-35 has an associate’s degree or higher, far less than the national average of 41.6 percent.
· Texas is ranked 42nd in residents 25-35 with an associate’s degree or higher.
· Only 15.9 percent of Hispanics in Texas earned an associate’s degree within a three-year period, compared to 43.8 percent for whites.
· Undergraduate students in Texas borrowed on average $4,723 in student loans in 2007, up from $2,873 in 1995.
· Texas currently ranks 42nd in the number of high school graduates going to college, with 55.4 percent.
· In El Paso County, 18.8 percent of the population has a Bachelor’s degree or higher, as opposed to 43.1 percent in Travis County.
· The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University at College Station are the only Texas public institutions of higher education ranked in the top 100 in U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges in the U.S., with UT is at #45 and Texas A&M at #63.
· 50 percent of college freshman in Texas are enrolled in remedial or developmental classes, compared with 28 percent across the U.S.
· Texas funds only 32 percent of need-based financial aid, as opposed to 89 percent by the top-investing states.
· The share of Texan family income needed to pay for college expenses at public four-year institutions increased from 18 percent to 26 percent between 2000 and 2008.
· 36 percent of blacks and 38 percent of Hispanics graduate from a four-year institution within six years, compared with 56 percent of whites.
· 50 percent of first-time, full-time college students earn a Bachelor’s degree within six years of entering college.
The Facts and Figures Section is even more definitive in letting us know that we are not doing a good job of educating our students. We are not preparing them for college. We are not preparing them for work. We are failing a large percentage of our students.
One slogan that I have heard many times since my transplant to Texas is “The Great State of Texas”. Yes, Texas is great in that it has lots of land, lots of oil, and mostly good weather. However, when it comes to making education a priority, they are sadly lacking. If Texas wants to claim to be a leader in all areas around the country, then its time to put our money where our mouth is at. When you have the second largest student population and yet rank on the average in the 40’s in most categories associated with education and children.
Our current system of education involves testing our students until they are brain dead. They have no ability to think and reason, therefore Texas ranks in the bottom ten percent in the country in SAT performance.
Must we as citizens and Educators in the “Great State of Texas” allow our elected official to drive our state to the bottom in every category that is being used for comparison? It is time that we take steps to insure the future of this state. The future of our state is in our kids and if we do not take care of them then there is not future in this state.
We must take the following steps.
- Vote, Vote, Vote. Vote out of office any member that has been in office for a long period of time. It is time for a change.
- Contact your elected officials. Make your voice heard.
- Put an end to the being mindless sheep. Every two years a group of men and women, that haven’t been in a classroom in decades, show up to decide the fate of education in the State of Texas. Most of them come from a privileged background. They are lawyers and business people that do not know anything about how to educate our children. They create new laws and we just follow them without fail. We do things even when we know they are wrong. We take many “trips to Abilene” (a reference to “The Abilene Paradox”).
- We must develop a list of “non-negotiables”. We are told frequently that certain curriculum TEKS are non-negiotiable. It is time to give our state government some non-negotiables. Here is my beginning list.
A. Fully funded, all day 3 year old and PK programs. This is the level where we can make the most difference in the shortest amount of time.
B. A hard cap on all class sizes. No class should ever have more than 25 students. In areas with a high percentage of low socioeconomic students, the ratio must be lower, 18 to 1.
C. Teacher contracts that are not worth more than the paper they are written on. Currently, districts can non-renew a teacher for just about any reason.
D. Reduced testing requirements in conjunction with accountability ratings. The “Test” cannot be the single determining factor on the quality of a school. Previously I proposed a system in which schools are scored on each component of the accountability factors. A single accountability factor should not determine the quality of a school.
E. Pay raises over a short period of time (4 years) that brings the average teacher pay and benefits up to the level of being in the top twenty in the country.
F. Require the state to put funding issues on the ballot in November and let all the people decide the issue, not just the handful of elected officials sent to Austin.
1. Casino Gambling
2. State Wide Property Tax
3. A bill that requires the legislature to never cut funding to education again in the future.
4. Higher Taxes on Beer and Wine.
G. Remove the fifteen percent requirement for end of course exams on the final grade.
H. Educators must be part of the process of deciding laws about education in the State of Texas. There are many very intelligent, well educated, and informed educators that know what is best for our children. They have been in the trenches and know what needs to be done. The educational needs of our students are changing fast. With technology and our need for instant gratification, it is hard to keep up with the changes in our students.
I. The legislature must meet their Constitutional obligation as outlined in Article 7, Section 1.
Sec.1.SUPPORT AND MAINTENANCE OF SYSTEM OF PUBLIC FREE SCHOOLS. A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall 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.
J. Return planning of the yearly calendar to the local level. It creates an imbalance in the length of semesters and do not allow high schools to complete the first semester before the Christmas Break. The planning of the yearly calendar is not a function of the legislature.
K. Pass a state law that prohibits the legislature from passing any UNFUNDED MANDATES. Two years ago, the legislature passed an $800 pay raise for teachers but only funded it for one year of the biennium.
L. Require the Texas Education Agency to develop a teacher pay scale that extends at least 30 years. The current scale only extends to 20 years. Teachers usually remain in the profession for 30 years or longer.
As I suggest these radical demands, I also realize that in order for the changes to take place the following must happen.
1. All educators, teachers, administrators, and support staff must speak with one voice. We are only as good as the weakest link.
2. We must make a statement that will send a message that we are serious. That message must effect all people in order cause a change. We must be willing to have several organized “sick” days. This will cause many parents to have children at home, which cause them to have to find daycare or babysitting for them. This will cause them to complain to their elected officials, which should cause some change.
3. During our organized “sick” days, we must make our presence felt in Austin. In 2010-11, there were 663, 146 school personnel according to TEA. I am pretty sure if only 100,000 or 15% of school personnel showed up in Austin to protest then a clear message would be sent. If even more than that showed up then it would shut down the city. There is no school without teachers, administrators, and support staff.
4. The best date to begin our organized “sick” days is August 20. 2012. We should remain sick until the governor calls the legislature back for a special session. They will have one task; pass a bill to use 2.7 billion dollars from the Rainy Day Fund to restore funding for the 2012-13 school year.
It is time to take a stand for the children and the future of this state. We are falling behind, faster and faster. We must produce a population of students that .are both capable of entering college and the workforce with success. Currently we are not producing a large enough percent of students that meet that standard.
David R. Taylor
24-Year Educator, Coach, and Principal