Public education spending advocates have recently urged the state to undo the K-12 spending cuts from the previous session. According to State Representative Mike Villereal, D, San Antonio: “There are no excuses. We have the money. … Stop sitting on it.”
While we, as a state, likely will have more money in the budget when the 83rd Texas Legislature kicks off in January than we did back in 2011, we should be very wary of any increases in spending, especially K-12 education spending. Evidence has shown that more money does not necessarily equate to academic success. We have seen this play out in Texas over the last 20 years; during stretches of steadily increasing our education dollars (this is true even with inflation adjustments), we have not seen corresponding academic gains, whether we’re talking about NAEP performance in the lower grade levels or SAT/ACT scores at the high school level.
Where we should absolutely be making efforts is in the arena of school district spending flexibility. Every school district’s students have different needs, and no one knows those needs better than parents, teachers, and local administrators. Simply pouring more money into those districts will not be as effective as allowing school districts to have control of their funding through reductions in mandates, and empowering parents to have more say in how their children are educated by our public schools, via means like strengthened parent-trigger laws and school choice options.
Make no mistake, excellence in Texas public schools is something everyone in this state wants. But where excellence is concerned in education, how the money is spent is just as, if not more, important than the amount spent.