(Orange, Texas)

State News

June 24, 2013

Test scores highlight ineffective school funding


AUSTIN, Texas —

"You get what you pay for, you definitely don't get what you don't pay for," University of Texas education professor Julian Heilig Vasquez said. "The teacher labor market is like any other market — the districts that pay more . get the best teachers. They have rookie teachers, uncertified teachers, in low-performing schools."

Others, however, argue that additional funding won't fix the problem. Providing more options for parents to boost competition in the school system is a better way to address failures in the system, said James Golsan, an education policy analyst at the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Golsan argued that the state regularly increased the number of raw dollars spent on education leading up to the 2011 cuts, but saw little improvement in student performance. Other factors were at play during that time, however, such as enrollment growth and inflation, that dampened the funding boost.

"We need to start looking at something other than money," Golsan said. "One of the best ways that comes to mind is injecting more competition into our public school system."

Golsan said the state needs to explore options such as vouchers to help middle- and lower-income families afford to send their students to private schools, if they want to do so.

Students from low-income families again struggled on this year's round of the STAAR end-of-course exams. And they struggled on the easier parts of the tests, too.

More Texas students passed the end-of-course exam in biology than any other subject, with 88 percent passing. But its passing rate for low-income students was 5 percentage points lower, with 83 percent passing.

Urban school districts, where most of the low-income students are concentrated, saw similarly low results. In the Dallas school district, where 86 percent of the student body comes from low-income families, only 42 percent passed the writing exam.

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