May 6, 2024 - News

Texas' low per-student funding

Choropleth map of U.S. states showing the amount states spent per public school student in 2022. Overall, states spent $15,633 per student. Utah spent the least, at $9,552, while New York spent the most, at $29,873. States in the Northeast and West Coast spent more than states in the South and Mountain West.
Data: Census Bureau; Map: Axios Visuals

More than nine in 10 Texas students attend inadequately funded schools, per a recent report that analyzes public school funding nationwide.

Why it matters: The Austin school board is considering asking voters to approve a tax increase in November to pay for teacher raises.

What they're saying: "There's really no other option when you have a state that refuses to invest in public education," Ken Zarifis, president of teachers union Education Austin, told the Austin Monitor, referring to a tax increase election.

The big picture: The Legislature last increased per-student funding in 2019, leaving cash-strapped school districts eying deep budget cuts to make ends meet.

Between the lines: The basic allotment — currently $6,160 per student — would need to increase by at least $1,000 just to keep up with inflation, said Bob Popinski, policy analyst at Raise Your Hand Texas, a nonprofit public education advocacy group.

State of play: This year could be the perfect storm of struggle for school districts with compounding financial woes.

  • District spending has increased for maintenance, health care, food services, custodial work and utilities, among other things.
  • Texas schools received $19.2 billion in federal COVID funding, which ends in September and will put school districts in a financial bind.

Flashback: The focus of several legislative sessions last year was a plan to provide public funding for private school tuition, which public school advocates said would further pinch school budgets.

  • Republican leaders say it would give families more choice regarding where to send their kids to school.

What's next: Gov. Greg Abbott said he only needs two more Republican votes in the Texas House to pass a voucher bill next year. Those votes could come later this month if his voucher supporters win runoff elections.

  • The GOP-dominated state Senate is already on board.

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