Education is the pathway for our children to pull themselves out of poverty and improve life outcomes. Texas has a great deal of work remaining to ensure that our schools and early education opportunities meet the needs of our vast population of children growing up in poverty. Here’s what we think is important:
It is important that children receive high quality education during the early years of their lives, which are most crucial to development. Quality early education increases school readiness, contributes to better student academic outcomes, and increases high school graduation rates, especially in children of low socioeconomic status. For the money, there may be no better investment the state can make that will yield this type of return. During the 84th Legislative Session, Governor Abbott and Texas policymakers invested $130 million in quality state Pre-K programs with the passage of House Bill 4. As the state monitors the implementation of HB 4, CHILDREN AT RISK will further examine the impact of high quality Pre-K on low income students and build upon the success of the 84th Texas Legislature. CHILDREN AT RISK will continue its efforts in the next Legislative Session to increase access to high quality Pre-K programs. For more information on our research and current efforts around pre-k education in Texas, please visit our project page.
Quality Public Schools
The public school system in Texas needs reform in order to improve the educational achievement and attainment of its students. The data clearly indicate that students are both failing to master basic subjects and dropping out of high school at alarmingly high rates. Moreover, these deficiencies are even greater across low-income and minority populations, and this achievement gap is not insignificant in a state where 59% of students are economically disadvantaged and 69% are minority.
Texas’ 82nd Legislature reduced state spending on public education in 2010-2011 by $5.4 billion, including $4 billion from the Foundation School Program. Although the extent of the cuts has been widely discussed, comprehensive information is lacking on how the cuts were implemented by school districts and the impact on Texas’ schools and students. CHILDREN AT RISK researched the impact of the budget cuts across the state. Our presentation of findings is distilled in one of two formats. What You Need To Know- A Parent’s Guide to the Impact of the Public Education Budget Cuts is designed to educate parents on the impact of the state funding shortfalls. Doing More With Less- Public Education in a New Fiscal Reality- Statewide Assessment is the statewide data-rich, analytic report that explores our main research findings. Read CHILDREN AT RISK’s Doing More With Less? Looking Beyond Public Schools (Full Report), which focuses on the impact of $5.4 billion in lost education funds on the nonprofit community that works in and alongside public schools, and click here to read the Executive Summary.
CHILDREN AT RISK’s annual school rankings provide a framework in which to understand the performance of schools across Texas. These statewide rankings include public schools at all grade levels and use indicators measuring achievement, including graduation rates, students passing TAKS exams at commended levels, college-ready testing, and advanced coursework. To provide a framework in which to understand the performance of Texas’ charter schools, C@R has released a Charter School Report that includes key findings on high-performing schools, including those that go the extra mile in serving economically disadvantaged students, as well as those that perform poorly and consistently do a disservice to their students.
For parents and educators, CHILDREN AT RISK provides TexasSchoolGuide.org, a statewide, interactive, mobile friendly website with school choice information and parent action guides for nearly all public schools across the state. For parents in the Fort Worth and Dallas ISD areas, CHILDREN AT RISK released the third printed editions of Texas School Guide: Empowering Families to Succeed in Public Education in English and Spanish with updated data, resources and parent action guides. For PDFs to the printed guides or for more information on this project, visit the project page.
For more information on the state of public education in Texas, explore our Education Resources.
Graduation and Dropout Rates
The repercussions of high dropout rates include a variety of social and economic challenges. High school dropouts face limited earning potential, increased rates of unemployment, a higher likelihood of committing a crime, and even a shorter life span. Moreover, a single cohort of dropouts is estimated to cost the state billions in lost potential income.
CHILDREN AT RISK calculates its own unique graduation rate by tracking student movement through “leavers” – students not counted by the Texas Education Agency as dropouts but who leave the school for reasons beyond transferring to another public school. Most recently calculated at 71.6%, CHILDREN AT RISK’s statewide graduation rate strives to account for students who fall through the cracks.
For more information on dropout rates across the state, please visit the school rankings page.
- Increase coordination of state-funded child care and public Pre-K data systems at the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Workforce Commission through the Early Childhood Database System to improve outcomes for children and maximize taxpayer dollars.
- Increase transparency by requiring the Texas Workforce Commission to report how state dollars are being spent, including the number and percentage of children receiving subsidies that are participating in high quality child care settings to parents and policy makers.
- Increase local coordination of early education programs by supporting public/private partnerships between school districts and high quality child care centers.
- Sustain the High Quality Pre-Kindergarten Grant Program at $236 million for the biennium.
- Create sustainable funding for quality Pre-K through formula funding.
- Expand Pre-K eligibility to children whose parents are whose first responders and have been killed or injured during duty
- Limit Pre-K classrooms to a maximum of 22 students, allowing no more than 11 students for each teacher or aide in Pre-K classes with more than 15 students.
- Increase inter-agency coordination of child care and Pre-K data systems through the Early Childhood Database System to improve outcomes for children and maximize efficiency of taxpayer dollars.
- Increase public/private partnerships between school districts and high quality child care centers.
Expanded Learning Opportunities
- Extend the Expanded Learning Opportunities Council for four additional years to examine the efficacy of a longer school day/longer school year and to examine best practices for public/private partnerships.