Texas 8th graders are falling behind
Eighth graders in Texas have fallen so far behind their peers in other states that they could lose roughly $104 billion in future earnings, according to an analysis by Texas 2036 and the Dallas-based George W. Bush Institute.
Why it matters: Education spending tends to be the biggest line item in the Texas budget, but the learning outcomes don't seem to be keeping up with other states.
The big picture: Conversations about Texas' public education system have become highly politicized in recent years.
There have been fights over diverting public funding toward private schools and homeschooling, the kinds of books that libraries can carry, the rights of transgender students, and how public schools treat their administrators of color — all while teacher and staff burnout remains high.
What they found: Once a student falls behind in the early years of their education, it's difficult for them to catch up, according to the new report.
60% of Texas students in grades 3-12 can't do math for their grade level, and 48% don't read at their grade level.
Only 22% of Texas eighth graders get a degree or credential within six years of their high school graduation.
Nearly a fifth of eighth graders don't graduate from a Texas public high school.
Low-income students are affected the most by these challenges.
Meanwhile: People moving to the state hold double the number of bachelor's degrees than Texas natives, making it more difficult for Texas natives to navigate the workforce.
The disparities are likely to worsen by the time Texas' current eighth graders grow up, the report warns.
Flashback: Texas' advocacy for public education dates back to the state's founding.
Texas' declaration of independence from Mexico, issued in 1836, listed Mexico's failure to establish a public education system as a reason for the split.
A version of George W. Bush's contentious No Child Left Behind Act was first implemented in Texas, while he was the governor, before becoming a national law during his presidency.
Former Gov. Rick Perry touted Texas' graduation rates during his 2016 presidential campaign.
What they're saying: "Failing to complete high school leaves too many young Texans facing an uncertain and risky economic reality unprepared to attain a post-secondary degree or credential and cut off from good-paying jobs as a result," the report says.
"It's clear the state needs to be doing more to equip our children for their futures. We need to double down on data-driven reforms to invest in our students and their success," Margaret Spellings, Texas 2036's president and a former U.S. secretary of education, said in a statement.
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