Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Is Tommy Lee Jones right on how much Texas spends on education?

Tommy Lee Jones appeared in Raise Your Hand Texas' recent spot about education funding.

Leaning against a desk in an empty classroom, actor Tommy Lee Jones warns that education budget cuts under consideration by state lawmakers will shortchange students.

"Out of the 50 states, Texas ranks 44th in education spending per student. Forty-fourth. It's pretty close to last," Jones says in the advertisement from Raise your Hand Texas, an Austin-based nonprofit that advocates for Texas students. Former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff serves on the group’s advisory board.

Jones, a native of San Saba who once attended high school in Midland, isn’t the first star to appear in the group’s ads. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs appeared in another recent Raise Your Hand spot. Jones is, however, the first to make a claim we’ve tested.

In January, state Sen. Wendy Davis, urging colleagues to make education funding their highest priority, said that "under current funding levels, Texas is already near the bottom in education funding per pupil (Texas ranks 44th nationally)."

We rated her statement Mostly True. Rankings vary by year and methodology, and in the latest rankings cited by the senator, covering 2009-10, Texas was 37th — improving from its 44th place the year before. Over the years, Texas has consistently trailed most states in per-pupil education spending.