Texas Faces Major Challenges in Education
When I was sworn in as Comptroller in 1999, I set 10 principles for this century; the first three were all education related. My priorities have not changed. My goal is crystal clear--I want Texas to have the most educated work force in the nation.
Nothing is more important than education. Our state's future tax base and fiscal well-being depend directly on a highly educated work force.
Last month, I updated my report, Texas Where We Stand: Education, which showed Texas is facing major challenges in education today. The people of Texas need to know where we are in education so that in the upcoming special session we can have a healthy debate about where we are--and where we can and should be--when it comes to preparing our most precious resource--our children--for the future.
Since 1999, Texas has dropped from 25th to 40th in the nation in per-student spending, which includes an ever-increasing gap between Texas teachers' salaries and the national average. Our Texas teachers are underpaid and underappreciated. Texas ranks 33rd in teacher salaries, down from 26th in 2001. Texas teachers are being paid 16.6 percent less than teachers nationally
More than 37,000 Texas teachers are leaving the classroom each year, taking their skills to better paying jobs or simply quitting. Turnover is highest where teacher pay is lowest. In December 2004, I recommended a $3,000 across-the-board pay raise for all Texas teachers, with a competitive automatic increase every two years--just to get us to the midway point in these United States. And we ought to be number one.
In 2005, Texas ranked 49th in average verbal SAT scores and 46th in average math SAT scores. We are dead last in these United States in the percentage of adults who have a high school diploma, and it is only getting worse.
My report reveals that since 2002, average fees and tuition increased 61.4 percent at public universities and 51.3 percent at community colleges. Further, in real dollars, per-student funding for universities was cut 19.92 percent and state funding in real dollars for community colleges was cut 35.29 percent from fiscal years 2002 to 2007.
And after my report was released, I received information from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching that shows Texas has fallen even further behind in the number of nationally recognized research institutes. Now California has 11 nationally recognized research institutes; New York, nine; Massachusetts, six; Pennsylvania, Illinois and Florida have four each; and Texas, the second most populous state in the nation, has only three.
As a former school teacher, and as a mamma and a grandmamma, these statistics break my heart. This state's government has failed our children and failed our teachers; and in failing our children and in failing our teachers, we are putting a failing grade on our future.
Carole Keeton Strayhorn