Texas House committee—inadequate education funding hurts economic competitiveness

A March 13 report from the Texas House Committee on Economic Competitiveness cites inadequate education funding as a key factor hurting the state’s economic prospects. Some of the report’s notable findings include these, addressing needs both in higher education and in elementary and secondary education:

–“According to the vice president and senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Pia M. Orrenius, Ph.D., ‘Texas is on the brink of squandering a demographic dividend by underinvesting in a pool of high school graduates.’”

–“Decreasing attainment will exacerbate a current mismatch between Texans’ skills and the requirements in our changing labor market. Currently, 35 percent of Texans, population age 25- 34, hold an associate’s degree or higher, compared to the national average of 44 percent.”

–“Community colleges and four-year universities will play a vital role in equipping youth with skills that lead to jobs and filling labor shortages in certain professions. Partnerships between these institutions and the business community are pivotal to determine where these shortages exist and how to address them through education.”

–“While technical courses are more expensive than traditional academic courses, providing more technical training is important to address the current skills gap.”

–“The state must continue to build on previous legislative achievements, such as the 83rd Legislature’s House Bill 5, which changed graduation requirements to help students better prepare for successful careers and promoted new collaboration among high schools, community colleges and industry. Providing more financial incentives for educational institutions to collaborate from the pre-K to university levels is one proposed solution.”

–“The University of Texas System chancellor, William McRaven, highlighted the need to produce more college graduates to continue competing with other states, noting that Texas has the fastest growing population of 15-19 year olds, but its college graduation rate is below the national average. He underscored the importance of state funding, which has been declining and has required universities to rely more on tuition fees to meet costs, making a college education unaffordable for many students.

–“‘We have a real education gap in Texas with a much smaller share of our young adults having college degrees than the national average.’ –Pia M. Orrenius, Ph.D., Vice President and Senior Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas”

–“The governor’s recently proposed 2.5 percent cap on property tax revenue will be detrimental to school funding since school districts receive 40 to 60 percent of property taxes across the state….this new proposal will severely reduce school resources unless more funding is appropriated by the legislature. House Bill 21 of the 85th Legislature would have increased the state’s share of school funding and reduced the need for higher property taxes — easing the burden on homeowners — but the legislation died after being altered by the Senate….how can the challenges facing the future competitiveness of the state’s workforce be addressed if Texas turns its back on its public school system, or does not address its method for allocating resources to public schools?”