Thursday, January 13, 2011

National report looks at impact of economy on education

Texas ranked 13th in the nation on Education Week’s 2011 Quality Counts report released this week, earning high marks for standards, school accountability, early-childhood education, college readiness and economy and workforce.

The annual report has a theme each year, and this time it was the impact of the economy on education.

Researchers at Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit organization that publishes Education Week, surveyed states on the economy’s impact on their education system and examined the effect of stimulus spending on education. According to the ARRA aid report, stimulus dollars have helped create or save about 650,000 jobs, with more than half of those jobs linked to money distributed by the U.S. Department of Education. 

Perhaps ironically, Texas is touted as a bright spot in a section of the report called “Economic Snapshots.” It points out that Texas has managed to avoid cuts to prekindergarten, elementary and secondary education during the economic downturn and has an unemployment rate below the national average. 

That kudos came the same week that lawmakers learned they’re facing a $27 billion budget deficit, one to rival California’s, as they build the state’s budget for the next two years.

Today, House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, announced he’ll introduce a budget bill Tuesday that assumes no new money for state programs, no new taxes and no use of the Rainy Day Fund.

New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman said in a recent column that Texas state government has relied for years on “smoke and mirrors to create the illusion of sound finances in the face of a serious structural budget deficit.”

“When the recession struck, hitting revenue in Texas just as it did everywhere else,” Krugman went on to say, “That illusion was bound to collapse.”

We know school districts are doing a phenomenal job of preparing students for the next step, whether that step is to kindergarten or college. Texas teachers work under some of the toughest accountability measures in the country and are educating their students to the nation’s highest standards, according to the report.

The question is, will schools be able to maintain that performance in the face of budget cuts that lawmakers are promising? And, what will Quality Counts have to say about Texas and how the economy impacted education here next year?

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