OPED: Dead Last – The label that plagues Public Education in Texas
By: Jon Williams, Guest Contributor
Every day, seemingly without exception, somebody from inside or outside of Texas sends me a message or posts to our FaceBook page the so-called “fact” that Texas is dead last in education and we need to “stop bragging” until we get that fixed. Of course “education” is a broad term, and it is never elaborated upon. Is that test scores? High School graduations? SAT/ACT test scores? I decided to investigate for myself. Here is what I found; below I will explain where their numbers come from and why Texas is still the greatest state in the nation regardless of the “numbers” they cite.
First, the source of the rankings that these folks generally point to are those of the National Education Association. With a fancy name like that, you’d assume that they are all about education. WRONG. They are a labor union. That’s right, the National Education Association (which donates millions of dollars every year to democratic candidates) has a vested interest in ranking a conservative “right to work” state like Texas low in their rankings since they are pushing for the opposite of free markets and competition. This isn’t an endorsement of political affiliations on either side of the aisle, it is simply an honest exposure so we can understand why they say what they do. Now that we’ve talked about the source of the numbers, er… propaganda, let’s examine Texas’ real education numbers. Texas is in fact ranked 51st in the nation (including Puerto Rico) in the High School graduation rate. However, that’s the only category in which we come in last; in every other category Texas ranks as average to above average when compared with the rest of the country.
Since the NEA is a left-leaning union organization, in fairness, I will quote a Alan Berube, a member of the Brookings think-tank (usually referred to as an arm of the Democratic Party).
“In a ranking of the 50 states plus Washington, D.C. in educational attainment, Texas was all over the map: 51st in high school (79.6 percent); 22nd in some college (22.6 percent); 44th in associate’s degrees (6.3 percent); 31st in bachelor’s degrees (25.3 percent); and 36th in graduate degrees (8.3 percent). The leading factor driving down the state’s rankings has little to do with the quality of public schools and everything to do with the rapid rate of immigration.”
Aha! So Texas’ overall education ratings are right in the middle of the pack, and well above average when it comes to 4-year degrees! (It can’t hurt that most Texans are raised as die-hard fans of one of the many fine Texas institutions of higher learning from birth).
As Mr. Berube stated above, the biggest negative influence on the Texas education system is immigration.
Illegals crossing the border near Laredo
Immigration is a very real issue which Texas faces. With the longest land-border in the nation, we deal with illegal immigrants on a daily basis. These immigrants who have children and come from nations south of the border seeking a better life are here, and we Texans have to accept that they are here. (The Federal Government has neglected their obligations to protect our borders, in my humble opinion, but that is a thought for a different day). On a personal note, I constantly remind myself that if I lived a few miles south, I would try to bring my family to the land of opportunity, especially with the loose Federal policies in place. Platitudes aside, immigrants are here, and they are here to stay. The question then becomes, “What can we do?”
Responsible Texans know that if we were to simply disallow children of illegal immigrants from attending schools, then new – and worse – problems would likely crop up: Adolescent Crime, Gangs, and Child Labor Law Violations just to name a few. This doesn’t even take into account the future issues our state would face with a large population uneducated adults, of which, a large percentage would likely end up on welfare and be a further drag on society. We have to educate the illegal immigrant population, it’s the right thing to do, and in reality it is the only viable option we have.
Back to the real numbers. 64.5 percent of high school dropouts in Texas are Hispanic. As there is no hard data, using the numbers available to me, I calculate that between 35% and 55% of those dropouts are illegals. It is a broad range, but schools don’t collect data on immigration status, and I used numbers based on the Texas population as a whole, average number of children in illegal immigrant households based on estimated census data, and the Hispanic population in Texas based on census data. Texas Tribune estimates that approximately 84,000 kids drop out of high school each year. Using the numbers already cited above, this means that 54,180 of those kids are Hispanic, and 18,963 to 29,799 of those are illegals. If you subtract the illegals from the numbers which are counted, then our overall dropout rate decreases to approximately 83% (based on a 72% current dropout rate). Minus the illegal immigrants, Texas is 17th overall amongst all the states as far as dropout rates.
Once again, well beyond the national average.
Of course, illegal immigrants are a part of just about every community in Texas, and dropping them from our numbers is neither right nor fair. However, Texas has issues unique to Texas, and our state education system, while needing some improvement performs near the national average in almost every category. Do the numbers yourself (citations below)… I’m sure you’ll come to the same conclusion I have. Texas teachers and school districts are doing a heck of a job considering the circumstances beyond their control.
Map of Illegal Immigrant Population by State
So the next time somebody tries to criticize Texas or Texans based on NEA propaganda, let them know you’re wise to their misleading data. Then tell them about the real Texas. (The Friendly State).
On a personal note, please know that I believe it is the parent’s responsibility to ensure their child has an adequate education. This article in no way undercuts to role of the parent at home in their part of their child’s education. In fact, the dropout rate would probably drop to near zero if parents were as involved in education today as my parents were during my upbringing.
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