Axios Dallas

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Happy Tuesday! Courage is a muscle.

โ˜€๏ธ Today's weather: Sunny and windy. High near 90.

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๐Ÿค— Situational awareness: The Dallas Mavericks and Stars start their second-round playoff series tonight.

Today's newsletter is 919 insufficient words โ€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: 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

Around 9 in 10 Texas students attend inadequately funded schools, per a report analyzing public school funding nationwide.

Why it matters: Texas ranks in the bottom 10 states in the country for education spending by several measures, including the report by the Albert Shanker Institute, the University of Miami and Rutgers University.

  • The state Legislature hasn't increased per-student funding since 2019, leaving cash-strapped school districts to consider deep budget cuts to make ends meet.

How it works: Per-student funding is set by the Legislature using a formula.

  • The state's basic allotment is $6,160 per student and can be higher based on characteristics of the district, including family income and the number of students who need accessible education.
  • Local property taxes also contribute to a district's overall funding.

Zoom in: Dallas ISD had a $40 million shortfall for 2023-24 and projects a $188 million deficit for 2024-25, officials tell Axios.

  • Teacher salaries, security mandates and inflation-related spending, and the number of seniors graduating "career, college and military ready" have all increased at Dallas ISD in recent years, superintendent Stephanie Elizalde tells Axios.
  • "About the only thing that isn't up is the money that the state gives us to teach the children," Elizalde says.

Threat level: Districts are spending more on maintenance, health care, food services, custodial work and utilities because of inflation.

  • Texas schools received $19.2 billion of federal COVID funding, which ends in September.
  • The state Legislature hasn't increased per-student funding for districts with compounding financial woes.

Meanwhile: Several legislative sessions last year focused on a voucher-like proposal to provide public funding for private school tuition. It didn't pass.

  • Gov. Greg Abbott and Republican leaders are pushing again to pass a voucher bill when the Legislature reconvenes next year.

2. ๐Ÿ‘€ Our true unemployment rate

A bar chart showing the U.S. metro areas with the highest and lowest True Rate of Unemployment in 2023. The measure shows the share of the U.S. labor force that is functionally unemployed (seeking but unable to find a full-time job, is unemployed or is employed in a position earning less than a living wage).
Note: Share of the U.S. labor force that is functionally unemployed (seeking but unable to find a full-time job, is unemployed or is employed in a position earning less than a living wage); Data: Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity; Chart: Axios Visuals

The Dallas area was among the major U.S. metros with the lowest rates of true unemployment last year.

Why it matters: Strong labor markets signify a healthy economy.

  • Boom towns like Denver, Nashville and Dallas are seeing low levels of unemployment โ€” in stark contrast to areas such as El Paso and New Orleans with large numbers of low-wage jobs, according to the Ludwig Institute for Shared Economic Prosperity.

How it works: The institute looked at the true rate of unemployment instead of the official rate of unemployment, which tends to be significantly lower than the true rate.

  • The official unemployment rate excludes people earning a few dollars a week and people who stopped looking for work for reasons like a lack of jobs or the demands of child care.
  • The true rate of unemployment tracks the percentage of the labor force that doesn't have a full-time job but wants one, has no job, or doesn't earn a living wage.

Zoom in: The Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington metro had a true unemployment rate of almost 20% in 2023, significantly better than the Austin (24%), Houston (24%) and San Antonio (27%) metros.

  • The U.S. rate was 23%.

Yes, but: 45% of the Dallas metro's population 16 and older was unable to find full-time work with a living wage, which the Ludwig Institute "conservatively" pegs at $25,000 annually before taxes.

Zoom out: The Laredo and McAllen areas had the highest true unemployment rates last year, close to 50%, per the Ludwig Institute.

3. โญ• Caress Russell's perfect North Texas day

Imagine your older sister flirting with other women on social media while pretending to be you... Photo: Courtesy of Netflix

Caress Russell is a poet from the Dallas area โ€” but she didn't compete on the latest season of Netflix's "The Circle" as herself.

The intrigue: The social media competition only lets contestants communicate over written messages. Some of them fudge their personas to gain popularity.

  • The real Paul posted a hilarious Instagram video after the show aired, saying watching his sister pretend to be him was "literally an out-of-body experience."

What's next: Caress is enjoying her Circle fame and hopes to do more work in the entertainment space.

  • "I know so many people out here who have supported me over the years. I'm getting the VIP treatment and it's an amazing feeling knowing my city has my back," she says.

We asked Caress to tell us her favorite North Texas spots. Here's what she said:

๐Ÿšฃ๐Ÿฝโ€โ™€๏ธ Favorite neighborhood: Las Colinas

โ˜• Favorite coffee shop: Ecclesia Bakery in Coppell

๐Ÿ‡ Favorite place to go with family: Downtown Grapevine

โšพ Favorite place to go with friends: Texas Live!

๐Ÿฅง Favorite dessert spot: Buttermilk Sky Pie. The key lime pie is heavenly!

Sushi and fondue

4. ๐Ÿ—ž Burnt ends: Bite-sized news bits

You can take a horse to a bar, but you can't force it to watch the playoffs with you. Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

๐Ÿ€ Head coach Jason Kidd signed a multiyear contract extension with the Dallas Mavericks. (Sports Illustrated)

โš–๏ธ Two men pleaded guilty to killing a 60-year-old shopper during a robbery attempt outside a Dallas Costco in 2021. (WFAA)

๐Ÿ“ข Several advocacy groups are calling for the Allen Premium Outlets shooting to be labeled a hate crime and increasing the age to purchase a semiautomatic weapon to 21. (KERA)

๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต Old East Dallas restaurant Mixtitos Kitchen is considering closing this month if it can't get its sales up. (DMN)

5. ๐ŸŒฎ One taco to go: Union Bear

The queso was good, no lie. Photo: Naheed "No Onions" Rajwani-Dharsi/Axios

Today's taco adventure takes us to a brewpub with a restaurant and patio in Plano's Granite Park Development.

Vibe check: Union Bear calls itself Plano's first brewery. There's a large waterfront patio and lots of TVs for watching playoff games.

What to order: Fish tacos โ€” served with chips and quesoย โ€” and sweet and spicy shrimp.

Where: Union Bear, 5880 S.H. 121, Plano

Cost: $15 for the tacos, $15 for the shrimp

Six-word review: Hearty entrรฉes with West Coast vibes.

๐Ÿค” Know a great taco we should try? Hit reply and tell us.

This newsletter was edited by Bob Gee and copy edited by Carolyn DiPaolo.

Our picks:

๐Ÿ’ Tasha is trying to be as classy as Stars coach Peter DeBoer.

๐Ÿคฃ Naheed is enjoying Tom Brady's Netflix roast because she's too petty to be classy like Coach DeBoer.

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