According to a recent analysis by Texas 2036 and the George W. Bush Institute, eighth-grade students in Texas are falling far behind their peers in other states, which could cost them approximately $104 billion in future earnings. This situation is worrying because education spending is the most significant line item in the Texas budget, and learning outcomes do not seem to be keeping up with those of other states.
The report finds that once a student falls behind in the early years of their education, it becomes challenging for them to catch up. In Texas, 60% of students in grades 3-12 cannot do math at their grade level, and 48% do not read at their grade level. Shockingly, only 22% of Texas eighth graders obtain a degree or credential within six years of their high school graduation, and nearly a fifth of eighth graders do not graduate from a Texas public high school. Low-income students are disproportionately affected by these challenges.
Meanwhile, people moving to Texas hold double the number of bachelor’s degrees compared to Texas natives, making it more difficult for Texas natives to navigate the workforce. The disparities are likely to worsen by the time Texas’ current eighth graders grow up, the report warns.
It’s worth noting that conversations about Texas’ public education system have become highly politicized in recent years. There have been fights over diverting public funding towards private schools and homeschooling, the kinds of books that libraries can carry, the rights of transgender students, and how public schools treat their administrators of color, all while teacher and staff burnout remains high.
In light of this report, it’s clear that the state needs to be doing more to equip its children for their futures. Margaret Spellings, Texas 2036’s president and a former U.S. secretary of education, called for the state to “double down on data-driven reforms to invest in our students and their success.” Failing to do so could leave too many young Texans facing an uncertain economic reality, unprepared to attain a post-secondary degree or credential and cut off from good-paying jobs as a result.
The report also highlights that the challenges facing Texas’ public education system disproportionately affect low-income students. These students often lack access to resources, such as high-quality teachers, technology, and extracurricular activities, that are critical to academic success.
Moreover, the report notes that Texas’ public education system is struggling to keep up with the state’s changing demographics. Texas is one of the fastest-growing states in the country, and its population is becoming increasingly diverse. As such, the state’s schools must find ways to support students from different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds.
To address these challenges, the report calls for data-driven reforms to improve student outcomes. Specifically, the report recommends investing in early childhood education, providing more resources to struggling schools, and increasing teacher pay to attract and retain high-quality educators. The report also recommends expanding access to career and technical education programs, which can provide students with the skills and credentials they need to succeed in the workforce.
Overall, the report’s findings suggest that Texas’ public education system is facing significant challenges that require urgent attention. Without significant reforms, the state risks falling further behind other states in terms of educational outcomes, which could have serious consequences for its future economic growth and competitiveness.