Fact-Check: Gov. Abbott’s School Funding Claims

Claim: In a tweet Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott refuted (rightful) claims from Houston Federation of Teachers President Jackie Anderson that state leaders’ plans to push vouchers — under “school choice” verbiage — would further defund public schools, already “starving” for money. 

In his tweet, Abbott said per-student funding for Texas schools is at an all-time high, bragging that he has “devoted more funding for public ed & teacher pay raises than any governor in TX history.” 

Facts: Two things can be true at the same time, primarily because of a little thing the governor speaks about frequently: inflation. 

Texas can both be spending more per student than ever before, and that amount can also be inadequate given that increases in the cost of education have outpaced the growth in public education funding. As Every Texan has pointed out, the basic allotment has been stuck at $6,160 since 2019. If state law had linked it to inflation, schools would have received almost $4 billion in additional state aid by now.

Insted, we find ourselves 39th in the nation for per-student funding. In our research, we’ve found Texas teachers, meanwhile, have endured actual salary losses over the past decade because of inflation. (That’s not to mention the support staff and paraprofessionals making wages near federal poverty levels.) 

Meanwhile, the “school choice” platform that Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has said he and Abbott are “all in on” would further destabilize the situation. According to Raise Your Hand Texas, for each student who leaves a Texas public school, a campus would lose about $10,000 in state and local funding.  

No matter how you slice it, that’s money coming out of the public education budget — money that could be spent on raising wages or providing more support services for students. 

Nor is this simply a problem with proposed private school vouchers. In reviewing Texas Education Agency data, Texas AFT has been able to quantify the impact of charter schools — as President Anderson noted — on Houston ISD schools. 

For the 2020-2021 school year, 43,624 students transferred out of Houston ISD and into a growing network of privately run charter schools. Those transfers, in just one year, cost Houston ISD an estimated $371 million. 

The governor can name himself as a public education champion all he wants, but the numbers tell a different story.