Texas Earns a ‘D’ Grade in New Public Schools Report, Barely Escaping Failure

This week, the Network for Public Education, a nonprofit dedicated to strengthening public schools across the country, published a report grading each state’s commitment to public education. This report, Public Schooling in America: Measuring Each State’s Commitment to Democratically Governed Schools, is the latest in a series assessing each state’s public schools.   

This year, Texas received a D-rating, just barely escaping the lowest grade by a few points. Texas earned a score of 58 out of 100, making it the lowest-scoring state to avoid an F-rating (55 points or less). Based on its overall score of 58, Texas ranks 34th out of 50 states.  

The grades consider a variety of factors but primarily focus on the extent of privatization in each state and the guardrails in place to ensure that those private entities, whether they be charter schools or voucher-accepting private schools, are transparent and accountable. The report also considers public school funding and, specifically, educator compensation. Additionally, the report evaluates the “freedom to teach and learn,” a grading category new to this year’s edition that measures several factors, including teacher qualifications, book bans, corporal punishment, and hostility toward the LGBTQ+ community.  

The report found a correlation in the grades across these vast categories. States that scored low on privatization were likely to score low in other categories. Texas scored a C-rating in the privatization category but an F-rating in the other categories, which caused its overall score to dip to a D-rating. Based on these scores, it is clear: Texas would have received an F-rating for public education had it passed a voucher scheme last year. Texas ranks 23rd when it comes to privatization, but 45th in all other categories.   

Among the factors that drag down Texas’ scores are inadequate per-pupil funding (Texas ranks 41st) and teacher salary (Texas ranks 28th). Additionally, recently passed Texas laws that limit curriculum and course instruction also lowered the state’s scores, like Texas’ book ban (HB 900 88-R) and its curriculum censorship laws (HB 3979 87-R and SB 3 87-2). The report’s evaluation of corporal punishment also lowers Texas scores, as Texas is one of just 17 states that expressly allow corporal punishment in public schools.  

Despite avoiding a voucher scam through the diligent efforts of educators and public school allies, Texas still took some hits on its privatization score, mainly when it came to charter school accountability and expansion. Texas lost points due to the percentage of students enrolled in charter schools (7.3%), its lack of certification requirements for charter school teachers, and its allowance of some virtual charter schools.   

The privatization situation in other states paints a dire picture. As the report states, “Although voucher costs have grown exponentially since 2000, private school enrollment has not — decreasing from 11.38% in 1999 to 9.97% in 2021. This indicates that vouchers are going primarily to students whose families would have chosen and paid for private school costs, thus placing an unnecessary burden on taxpayers.”   

The voucher proposal pushed by Gov. Greg Abbott would not have prohibited families that already send their kids to private schools from using the voucher. Had his bill passed, Texas likely would have worsened this trend.