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In an advertisement urging lawmakers to fund public education, the Texas Association of School Boards bullets a half dozen claims about the state’s public schools ranging from current student enrollment to a reminder that legislators cut education aid in 2011.
One claim in the ad, which appears online and also filled a page in the April 24, 2013, Austin American-Statesman, was especially familiar--and flawed.
"Now Texas ranks 49th in per-pupil funding among the states," the ad said when we looked.
A few days earlier, we rated as Mostly True a similar claim by state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, who like the school boards’ group depended on preliminary spending estimates calculated by the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union. In February 2012, the association said that Texas schools are spending $8,400 per student this year on items such as salaries for school personnel, student transportation, school books and energy. Its breakdown suggests Texas’ per-student expenditures trailed such spending in every state but two.
Those calculations place Texas 48th among the states in per-student spending.
And how might someone conclude, like the school boards’ association, that Texas ranks 49th? The compiled figures, shown on Summary Table K in the association’s report, downloadable here, reflect spending within each state plus schools in the District of Columbia, which has current estimated expenditures of more than $14,000 per student. Consequently, the Texas spending level falls 49th among the 50 states plus D.C.
By phone, Catherine Clark, associate executive director of the school boards’ association, confirmed that the group relied on the NEA calculations in declaring Texas as 49th in education spending among the states. If spending in the D.C. schools figures into that conclusion, Clark said, "then we’re wrong."
The group said Texas ranks 49th in per-pupil funding among the states.
Texas ranks 48th among the states, according to preliminary figures, and 49th only if one also considers spending in the schools in Washington, D.C., which is not a state.
This claim is close to accurate, but without the D.C. clarification, it rates as Mostly True.
Telephone interview, Catherine Clark, associate executive director, Texas Association of School Boards, April 24, 2013
Truth-O-Meter article, "Wendy Davis says Texas ranks 49th in what it is doing in per-pupil education spending," PolitiFact Texas, April 18, 2013
Report, "Rankings & Estimates, Rankings of the States 2012 and Estimates of School Statistics 2013," National Education Association, December 2012 (downloaded April 12, 2013)
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