NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Per Pupil Spendxas

September 23, 2002

Education critics often point to the importance of per-pupil expenditures as a key to predicting student performance. The higher the dollar outlay, the higher the expected results. Yet studies show that it isn't always that simple. Texas is a case in point. With 40 percent of Texas' general spending going toward education, the Lone Star State outpaces the national average of 34 percent. Texas outspends Florida, Colorado and California. At the elementary, secondary and collegiate levels, Texas devotes a larger percent age of its tax revenue to education than the national average -- between 9 and 10 percent. Nevertheless, some claim Texas' spending is inadequate, pointing to the fact that Texas ranks 27th in actual spending per pupil -- $6,588, compared to the national average of $7,111. Yet researchers explain comparisons of per-pupil spending are unreliable because of the differences between the states in other economic factors, including a lower wage level and Texas' higher concentration of youngf young people.

  • Nationally, 17 of every 100 state residents go to primary or secondary public schools; in Texas, it is 19 out of 100.

The most contentious issue in education financing is the state-local mix, researchers say. Texas relies somewhat more on local funding than average - but that reliance is a virtue, not a weakness, they add, pointing to research by Harvard University's Caroline Hoxby that finds heavier reliance on local dollars for school funding increases school accountability and student academic performance.

Students in Texas - particularly African-American and Latino students - demonstrate impressive gains in elementary and middle grades that challenge the average achievement of their peers throughout the nation, suggesting that despir pupil spending Texas doesn't shortchange its students.

Source: Richard Vedder, Ph.D., "Education Funding: How Texas Stacks Up," Texas Public Policy Foundation, June 2002.


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