Texas high school football has been in the news a lot lately. First came the report last weekend that a high school in Allen, Texas is building a $60 million stadium for its football team. Then came the story about how amazed the Green Bay Packers are at the luxuriousness of the indoor football practice facilities of another Texas high school.
My immediate question when I see these stories is: how does Texas rank in spending money on its students? Studies tell us that while spending more money does not necessarily lead to better school performance, it does when the money is spent on more teachers and instructional materials. Although many funding decisions are made by school districts not states, the state sets the tone and the standards, so it’s fair to ask this question of the entire state.
The question behind the question is really: Are Texas and many of its school districts so rich and generous that they can lavish their high school athletes OR is Texas taking money from education to spend on sports?
As many OpEdge readers may have suspected, Texas has made the decision to prefer football over education.
According to the National Education Association (NEA), using 2009 numbers, Texas ranks 38th in spending among the states and the District of Columbia. Education Week numbers are a little older and push Texas even further down the list to 48th among the states and D.C. The difference between the two studies is that Education Week rankings adjusted for regional cost differences but the NEA did not. Also, Education Week used U.S. government data and the NEA collected its own data.
Either way, it’s a poor showing for a state that so royally funds the extracurricular activity of a handful of boys aged 16 to 18 years.
Let’s put it into perspective: $60 million could pay the salaries of approximately 750 experienced high school teachers, which would allow 3,000 high school students to receive instruction in classes with an average size of 16 students instead of an average size of 20. The impact on elementary school would be greater, as elementary school teachers tend to earn less than high school teachers do. $60 million would also pay for four years of tuition for about 1,700 students at the University of Texas at Austin, one of a handful of state universities across the country considered a “public Ivy.”
For those who aver that a football stadium is a one-time cost whereas we have to keep paying teachers year after year (ignoring of course the stadium’s annual maintenance budget), consider instead the number of text books, computers, musical instruments, easels, foreign language instructional DVDs/CDs and science labs that the state could buy for each $60 million pleasure dome in which they ask young males to hit and tackle each other.
And for those who claim that the football team brings in needed revenue, consider that no football team could possibly stimulate the economy as much as a random selection of 48 competent, well-educated and skilled nurses, computer technicians, dieticians, plumbers, human resource specialists, middle school teachers, small franchise operators, administrative assistants, professional writers, physicians and civil engineers.