Previously I wrote about how red states are harmful to children’s livelihood?in the areas of public education spending, health care, and other social services. Moments after the story was published, news broke that Florida man George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the murder of 16-year-old Trayvon Martin. This suggests that red states also aren’t too concerned with justice where children are concerned, especially African American children. And now we learn that Texas spent less on its students than most states for the 2012-2013 school year (See Table K). Only Arizona and Nevada spent less than the Lone Star State. Public education spending and achievement is not a priority in Texas.
According to the National Education Association, Texas falls $3,000 below the national average on spending per pupil, or $66,000 per elementary school classroom. Whereas other states on average spend $11,455 per student for public education spending, Texas spends only $8,400. This drop in spending is a direct consequence of the Texas legislature’s cutting $5.4 billion (yes, billion) from its education budget last year. This has resulted in a loss in teacher positions and bus routes – and no doubt a few IQ points.
Negligence towards public education spending for students is especially inexcusable when you realize that Texas has the second largest economy in the U.S., right behind California. It has the fourteenth largest in the world, just behind Spain. With a gross domestic product of $1.2 trillion, Texas is an economic powerhouse that’s more than capable of giving its nearly 5,000,000 students a world-class education.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation, a private charity group, recently ranked Texas as the forty-second worst state in which to be a child.?And yet it’s a magical wonderland for corporations and CEOs. Among the many gargantuan businesses headquartered in Texas are ExxonMobil (2012 revenue: $449.9 billion), Phillips 66 ($169.6 billion), Valero Energy ($138.3 billion), AT&T ($127.4 billion) and ConocoPhillips ($63.4 billion). But since there is no corporate or individual income tax in the Lone Star State, not a cent of these billions upon billions of dollars makes it into classrooms. Like engorged ticks, the ExxonMobils and AT&Ts swell in record profits while Texas schools must make do with much less than they deserve.
Former Texas governor George W. Bush famously observed, “Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?” Although conjugating simple verbs clearly isn’t W.’s strong suit (he is a product of Texas grammar school, after all) his message rings true. In Texas, we’re too focused on pandering to corporations and restricting women’s reproductive rights. We care less about whether or not our children are receiving an adequate education, which ultimately keeps our workforce competitive with the rest of the nation.
Young adult fiction writer John Green said it best when he wrote:
[P]ublic education does not exist for the benefit of students or for the benefits of their parents. It exists for the benefit of the social order. We have discovered as a species that it is useful to have an educated population. You do not need to be a student or have a child who is a student to benefit from public education. Every second of every day of your life you benefit from public education. So let me explain why I like to pay taxes for schools even though I don’t personally have a kid in school. It’s because I don’t like living in a country with a bunch of stupid people.
Sadly, the GOP not only doesn’t mind a little stupid but also seems intent on spreading it to others. Even prominent members of the Republican party have admitted this. Last year, former presidential candidate Rick Santorum regretted that the GOP will never have the backing of “smart people,“?and Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal called on his fellow Republicans to “stop being the stupid party.” As long as voters in Texas and elsewhere continue to vote Republican and provide less public education spending, policies will continue to condone and encourage stupidity.