In last Sunday’s Houston Chronicle, Gary Scharrer’s op-ed provided an epic indictment of the Texas GOP-dominated legislature and it’s priorities. He tells it like it is…
Texas is headed for the ditch, but few people are aware of the state’s perilous path. The demographers have seen the future, though, because it’s foretold in their numbers. And they’ve been sounding the alarm.
There hasn’t been much of a public-policy response, so far.
Texas could be the pacesetter: It has a young and rapidly growing population. Educate that workforce and Texas becomes a vibrant, thriving state for decades. Unfortunately, that young population is overwhelmingly minority and under-educated, and there appears to be little political interest in addressing the needs of that demographic group.
Increasingly, Texas stands to become poorer and less competitive, according to demographers who study the numbers for a living. Neither state leaders nor the media is paying adequate attention. Few Texans are aware of the state’s rapidly changing population. Hispanics will surpass whites as the largest population group some time before 2020.
By the numbers, here’s what’s been taking place: The state lost 184,486 white children between 2000 and 2010 while gaining 931,012 Hispanic children over that decade, according to the U.S. Census. Stated another way, in 2000, Texas white kids outnumbered Hispanic children by 120,382; Flash forward to 2010 and Hispanic children outnumbered white kids by 995,116.
Here’s the most important figure: All of our K-12 enrollment growth over the past decade comes from low-income children – that is, children whose family income qualifies them for free and reduced-cost school lunches. Those low-income students now make up a little more than 60 percent of our public school enrollment.
Many are way behind when they arrive in the first grade. Too many drop out years later. A whopping 47 percent of low-income high school students from the Class of 2015 were off track to graduate, according to testimony in last year’s public school finance trial.
Why does this matter? Murdock, who served as director of the U.S Census Bureau in the administration of President George W. Bush, projects that three out of 10 Texas workers will not have a high school diploma by 2040. Also, in 25 years, the average Texas household income will be some $6,500 less than it was in the year 2000. The figure is not inflation-adjusted, so it will be worse than it sounds. Basically, today’s children, collectively, stand to be worse off than preceding generations.
How can we address the trend line? The first step is to increase access to high-quality pre-K, Murdock says.
And here is where it gets complicated. Republican lawmakers cut $200 million from pre-K resources in 2011 as part of the Texas Legislature’s $5.4 billion reduction in public education funding. Conventional wisdom holds that lawmakers aligned with the tea party will be in greater numbers than ever before when the Legislature convenes next year. You won’t hear that group campaigning for more pre-K funding.
An influential Republican lawmaker told me a few years ago that the leadership doesn’t care about what happens to Texas in 25 years. The next election is more important. Another influential Republican leader bluntly told me that talking about the challenges of low-income students will hurt you in the GOP primary.
[…] It will be interesting to watch candidates for the state’s top political leadership spots this fall. How much attention will they (and the media) focus on what soon could turn into the state’s No. 1 problem?
The growth in minority population has created a “generational rift” along racial and ethnic lines, which is documented in a new book, “Changing Texas: Implications of Addressing or Ignoring the Texas Challenge.” Murdock is the lead author.
[…] “Lower-income populations are less likely to purchase housing units, to create substantial increases in private sector revenues, and to increase state taxes and other revenues at the rate of persons with higher incomes,” the authors point out. “Although closing the socioeconomic gaps for Texas minority populations will be difficult, it is clear that the state is better off if they become better off.”
To sum up, it’s time for Texas to !!!WAKE UP!!!
Ok Spike Lee references aside, this is so important that for everyone in Texas to understand. We have to stop viewing education as a burden and start viewing it as our most precious investment. The banter back and forth about Pre-K isn’t just political wrangling. The money that we choose to invest in these young minds will have a direct correlation on the future of the Lone Star State. Thanks to insidious actions of the legislature, Texas schools are falling behind other states. This is simple fact.
But the one thing Scharrer doesn’t discuss in this op-ed?? People are starting to wake up. Thanks to candidates like Wendy Davis, Leticia Van de Putte and other Texas Democrats, we have opened the conversation again about making the right investments in education. The Davis campaign has continues to hammer Abbott’s Pre-K plan because they know how important this is for Texas families, and for all of us. We can ensure a better future for this state starting in November if we elect the right people to lead us. And at this point, they can’t be found in the GOP. Make no mistake… Democrats are the only party in this state that are willing to address these issues. If you care about having a good education for all Texas children, if you want better investment in our schools and colleges, then you have to get out and vote for it this November. Don’t let the Republicans drive this state into oblivion.
Off the Kuff has more.