Education needs top focus of lawmakers
It can take years for poor policies affecting major parts of our state to begin to show effects. Public education has been the red-headed stepchild of lawmakers for the past decade in Austin and it’s starting to show.
But we’d best start recognizing it, Tom Luce, education reform advocate and founding partner of a prominent Dallas law firm told audiences at the ElevatEd conference held Monday at Southern Methodist University.
“As education goes, so goes our economy, our quality of life and our future, and that’s true of every Texan,” Luce told the crowd as reported by the Dallas Business Journal.
Luce said 65 percent of the jobs in Texas will require a two- or four-year degree by 2036, yet just 21 percent now earn those degrees. (See income comparisons.)
And he pointed out troubling trends. Over the past 50 years, children’s prospects of earning more than their parents have fallen from 90 percent to 50 percent.
Texas ranks 36th nationally in per-pupil education spending. And only 10 percent of Texas voters think the state spends too much on public ed, a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll found.
Yet lawmakers have continually played a shell game with education funding instead of opting for the hard work of reworking the school finance system. As the state cuts its share of education support, some top leaders have the gall to blame local school districts for trying to make up the difference, then see a corresponding rise in district expenses.
And the Texas economy’s steady gains have masked signs of growing inequality, another expert said at the conference.
Robert Kaplan, president and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, offered comments on the larger, national societal trends that are negative.
“America is in a very deep state of economic inequality,” Kaplan said. “Polarization of our political systems is as great as it’s ever been with the exception of right before the Civil War.”
There is a huge opportunity gap between wealthy families and those who grow up poor. That threatens democracy, he said.
He summed up: “Are we all in this together? That is what we have to address.”
Comparable lifetime earnings for students:
No high school degree $937,000
High school diploma $1.3 million
Some college $1.5 million
Associate’s degree $1.7 million
Bachelor’s degree $2.3 million
Master’s degree $2.7 million
Doctoral degree $3.3 million