Another F for Texas in school finance spending 

Texas received a grade of C- on the final release of Education Week’s “2019 Quality Counts” ratings. Texas’ overall grade of 71 put its ranking at 41st in the nation. 

We’re quick to point out that overall letter grades aren’t always based on a system that portrays how well someone is really doing in their work (e.g., our A-F state accountability system). Quality Counts has been publishing its ratings for more than 20 years, and it uses a reliable system of data analysis. But the overall grade Texas received is based on the three following categories: Chance for Success (74.6), School Finance (67.3) and K-12 Achievement (71.4).  (The average overall grade for all states is 75.6) 

Those categories are broken down by even more metrics to allow for more in-depth data analysis. The key metric for Texas’ dismal performance has always been per-pupil spending within the School Finance category, with our state this year getting its traditional grade of F, which puts us at 43rd in the nation.  

While our state continues to do well in certain areas, looking at the rankings makes it clear that higher funding levels do translate into better results in all other areas. 

Interestingly, the state with the best overall grade–New Jersey with an 87.8–is still pushing to go further and noting that it takes sustained efforts at improvements on all levels to keep advancing.

As Edweek reports: “There’s beginning to be an awakening that Washington isn’t going to come in and help on this issue,” said David Sciarra, executive director of the Education Law Center, which advocates for school funding and equity in New Jersey. “People are starting to wake up to the fact that the unit of authority that can change things is in the state capital, and in order to change the trajectory in a state, it’s going to take time, and it requires a high level of sustained effort and advocacy on multiple fronts.” 

Sciarra, whose organization led a long-running legal challenge to New Jersey’s school funding system, credits such ongoing efforts, dating back to the 1990s, for his state’s consistent presence at the top of national rankings. 

A strong public prekindergarten program, separate state capital funding for school construction, and a funding formula that accounts for the needs of high-poverty schools have helped promote equity and high achievement in New Jersey, Sciarra said. 

And New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, recently signed a budget that increases state aid to districts by $191 million, helping more high-poverty school systems reach adequacy under the state’s formula. But there is still work to be done, Sciarra said. 

“We’ve learned over the years that you can’t just sit back and say, ‘Well that’s enough. We don’t need to do any more,'” he said. “What we’ve learned is that the drive for equity is never achieved.”