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badice.com ~ travel musings for the masses

Good ol’ Krugman,  once again leaving out important facts in order to wiggle his way into finding some Republican fiscal responsibility for any and all messes.

In his usual way, Mr. Krugman gets straight to the point with this:

And in low-tax, low-spending Texas, the kids are not all right. The high school graduation rate, at just 61.3 percent, puts Texas 43rd out of 50 in state rankings. Nationally, the state ranks fifth in child poverty; it leads in the percentage of children without health insurance. And only 78 percent of Texas children are in excellent or very good health, significantly below the national average.

What he fails to point out is that the majority of the Texas budget is spent both on healthcare and education. How do I know this? Texas conveniently publishes a fact book that you can find here (2010). Page 33 is what you are wanting to read, of $77.6 billion in state revenue, 56.3% was spent on education and 22.8% on health and human services. That amounts to around $43.6 billion spent on education (higher education and public education) and $17.7 billion spent on health and human services. The next closest item on the budget is criminal justice and public safety, which received 9.4% of the state’s budget or $7.3 billion.

Krugman is insinuating that we do not spend enough and that budget cuts will have a deep impact across the state. There’s no doubt that there will be a hit on health and human services but I think the problem is how the funds are being spent within their different agencies, not in the amount the agencies have received before. A lot of mid-sized school districts are estimating $14 million to $20 million a year being cut from their budgets if the plan goes through. If 85% of a district’s money is being spent on personnel, I’d like to see who’s earning what. My money is on the admin side making a decent chunk of change. Maybe some cuts can be made in the admin buildings without making a dent in teacher numbers.

The Texas budget crisis is this, they could cut all other department funding completely and would still have to cut some out of education and health and human services. Tax revenue for the state has dropped to around 2006 levels, which begs the question, why can’t we return to 2006 spending levels? Technically we could, but it would still require personnel cuts in education. The real question is, would it have dire consequences on your children if their classroom size jumped to 30? The research says that the jury is still out on class size having anything to do with graduation rate. Krugman is simply echoing what school districts are screaming across the state which is, “Call your representative! Education is going to die in Texas!”. It’s a little extreme isn’t it? Especially since the estimated budgets for the schools would simply return to 2005 numbers. Have our graduation rates really gone up that much since then? No.

On the chopping block for education are a litany of programs, including parts of the TELPAS program, an assessment for English language learners. While I’m sure the motives behind the program were good, the program has grown to be a beast both in terms of money and in time. And it’s what we are doing with the information we glean from the assessment that is so worrisome. Rather than spending extra time specifically with students who are not English proficient, a lot of districts simply slow the entire class down, in order to avoid the student from feeling awkward. Education’s role is not keeping a student’s social life intact, it’s to educate them.

Another item that people keep insisting would help us is dipping into the state’s rainy day fund, which sits around $9.7 billion. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense, knock down our deficit to $18 billion with our entire savings account, sounds like a stellar plan. Instead, let’s keep that money for a time when we really, really need it.

One of the things I am actually in agreement with Krugman on is the issue of taxes. Most of the state’s budget comes from sales tax and I would be alright with a 1% increase in the tax, taking the rate up to 9.25% (includes local and county collection). Before you tell me how I’m not conservative, let me just explain why this is an acceptable compromise. By raising the sales tax rate, you are not increasing franchise fees or “punishing” the poor, you are simply making it a little more expensive for people to consume. Since a lot of items are not taxable, people have the ability to avoid the taxes or significantly minimize them. The other plus is that sales tax is easy to roll back, while things like franchise taxes and property taxes have a nasty way of sticking around after being implemented.

In the end, something has to give. Either a slight tax increase, budget cuts, or a little bit of both is necessary to get this thing under control. Go to your school board meetings, look at their budget. If they are spending a lot more on administrators than on teachers, call it in to question. Maybe they can make cuts around your district without actually affecting the class room.

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  1. ericstoner #
    March 3, 2011

    Let’s see. Texas can roll back to 2006 salaries for all the teachers, administrators. That is maybe 8-10% pay cut if salaries have gone up 2% a year.

    But Texas population grew about two percent a year so population is 10% higher. So we expand class sizes by 10% because thier is no money to hire extra staff for those kids.

    But another complication. Inflation has been about two percent a year so buses, books, etc. have risen about 10% on average.

    So do we cut books and buses 10%?

  2. Tim #
    June 22, 2011

    “the majority of the Texas budget is spent both on healthcare and education” This assertion which is critical to your argument is misleading at best. The same TX Fact Book that you cite, says that the total revenue for the state is over $180 billion. Thus the total for education and health and human services combined is well under 40% of the budget.

    The same Fact Book shows that Texans pay the lowest % of taxes by far, of the 15 most populous states. (Our per capita income is the lowest also.) Makes you wonder why low taxes don’t lead to greater prosperity for all, unless you think that that is simply Republican dogma. (Perhaps the low per capita income has to do with lower education levels.)

    • Stephan Segraves #
      June 23, 2011

      Actually, 73% of the budget is spent on education and healthcare – http://www.texasbudgetsource.com/state/where-the-money-is-spent/budget-overview/

      The numbers I was using were simply focused on revenue from tax dollars and the spending associated with it specifically.

      Also, like I said, a small increase in the sales tax is, in my mind an ok thing.

      While pointing the “Republican dogma” you’re simply trying to make a correlation between higher taxation states and better performance in schools and less poverty. There is a lot more going on than simply tax rates. It couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that per capita we have the lowest income rates could it? And what kind of jobs are lower paying? Manufacturing, trades, etc.

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