Let us assume for a moment that legislators – either during the closing weeks of this regular session or in a summer special session – will agree on a plan to boost state funding for public schools by $6.3 billion over the next two years. If they do, applaud politely but don’t get carried away.
Think of $6.3 billion as a down payment on long-neglected repairs, the start of a long climb out of a deep hole, and make it clear to the governor and lawmakers that we expect them to make school finance improvements a priority for years to come.
I say $6.3 billion because this is the amount of new education funding that the House and the Senate have approved in separate legislation but with different details for spending it. House and Senate leaders are attempting to find agreement on those differences.
Even with the new funding, though, the hole for educators and Texas school children will remain very deep. As indicated by the National Education Association’s latest analysis of TEA’s school finance data, Texas is actually spending $71 less per student in average daily attendance (ADA) this school year than it did in 2017-18.
NEA determined that Texas is spending an average $10,712 per student in 2018-19, the school year drawing to a close, compared to $10,783 last year. This includes state, local and federal funding for school operations. It is more than $2,900 below the national average and ranks Texas 39th in per-ADA spending among the states and the District of Columbia.
The average teacher salary in Texas increased from $53,334 in 2017-18 to $54,155 in 2018-19 but still trailed the national average of $61,700 by more than $7,000.
“These figures mean overcrowded classrooms, high teacher turnover and a growing threat to the Texas economy,” TSTA President Noel Candelaria pointed out.
“We are happy that the Legislature is taking steps this session to increase state funding for public schools, but this will be only a down payment. It will take several more sessions to fully overcome years of neglect and misplaced priorities,” he added.
Candelaria also noted: “School finance changes must include guaranteed pay raises for all teachers and all other school employees who devote every day to educating our children and providing for their safety and well-being.”