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TX Profs Estimate Poverty $$$ Needed

September 8, 2014

A few days ago courts in TX determined that the funding formula for public education was not meeting the needs to the students in the state. As an editorial in today’s Odessa American Online explains, one reason for the ruling was that many property-rich districts who enroll students raise in poverty send their property tax revenues to Austin where they are redistributed to districts who do not have students raised in poverty. The other reason, embedded in the article is that children raised in poverty require 27.6 percent more money than other children. “What’s that?”, you say.

The cost is not higher in a vague, nebulous or metaphysical way. It’s higher by 27.6 percent in Texas. That figure comes from a report by three professors at Texas A&M University — Timothy J. Gronberg, Dennis W. Jansen and Lori L. Taylor — published in 2009.

Their paper was aimed at defending cost functions in educational analysis.

The number might change with time. But the point is that the cost of educating children who are economically disadvantaged can be measured in a reasonably precise way.

If you accept that, the place to start in the debate about funding for public education ought to be obvious.

Having just written a post that criticizes the use of seemingly precise calculations generated by economists you might call me on the use of this seemingly precise number, and in some respects that criticism might be warranted. But from my perspective, it only underscores the fact that politicians are choosing to emphasize the use of “precise” test data while choosing to ignore “precise” data on the cost impact of poverty. Why? Because it costs much less to administer tests to all children than it costs to increase per capita spending for the 25+% of children who are raised in poverty. Because it is a lot easier to score points politically by criticizing greedy teachers than by asking taxpayers to dig deeper into their pockets. And it may well be that they gain a lot more political donations by promoting for profit privatized schools as the solution to poverty instead of “throwing money away”. Unfortunately the for-profit money that goes to shareholders only adds to the gap between the next generation of the 1% and those 25+% of children struggling in school.


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