Many Texans are poor, not because they don't work, but because their work pays too little to raise a family out of poverty. To ensure economic prosperity, Texas public policy must support work, make work pay, and help families build their assets. The most important thing the state can do to enhance economic opportunity is to invest in public education—from early childhood education all the way through higher education.

Recent Education Publications

The Cost of College: How Texas Students and Families are Financing College Education (09/11/2012)

Click here for a link to access the presentation and audio recording from our College Financial Aid Policy Webinar.

Financial aid enables thousands of Texans with limited financial resources to pursue postsecondary education, but need-based grant aid is under attack at state and federal levels. With new restrictions on need-based aid coupled with state budget cutbacks, financial aid rationing threatens college access, persistence, and success for a young and growing population in Texas.

Testimony: Combating the Student Loan Burden (09/11/2012)

The center submitted written testimony on the Senate Higher Education Committee interim charges exploring student financial aid and the issue of student loan debt Texas institutions of higher education.

Texas Funding for Schools Much Lower Than Before Recession (09/4/2012)

In response to the Great Recession, the Legislature chose to make extensive cuts to school funding instead of using the Rainy Day Fund to protect Texas school children, putting the state’s economy and long-term prosperity in jeopardy.

State and local funding for preK-12 education is 11.2 percent below 2008 levels in Texas after adjusting for student growth and inflation, according to a report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a non-partisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C.

College Access, Success and the 82nd Texas Legislature (11/2/2011)

Senior Policy Analyst Don Baylor gave this presentation, “College Access, Success and the 82nd Texas Legislature," at the RAISE Texas Summit at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas November 2, 2011.

Funding Public Education (08/1/2011)
This presentation provides a quick overview of the status of funding for public education in Texas after the 2011 legislative session.

Ready, Steady, Go! Strategies to Improve Texans' Financial Readiness to Pay for College (07/12/2011)

Texas faces numerous challenges, but also abundant opportunities to build the middle class and increase prosperity. Unfortunately, too many Texans are sidelined, lacking access to opportunities to learn, earn, and save to secure a prosperous future for themselves and their families.

Promoting College Success (04/26/2011)

Expanding economic opportunity in Texas depends on our state’s ability to increase the college graduation rate for the thousands of college freshmen arriving on campuses each year. The pending budget bills would hamper college access for thousands of Texans through severe cuts to successful financial aid programs, including TEXAS Grants (Towards Excellence Access and Success) and other grants for aspiring college students. Despite these cuts, several bills aim to promote college success through developmental education, performance-based funding, and more eligibility restrictions for TEXAS Grants. This policy page provides an overview of this pending legislation.

Testimony: Enhancing College Access through a Statewide Financial Preparation Model (03/9/2011)

Senior Policy Analyst Don Baylor and OpportunityTexas Project Coordinator Laura Rosen presented testimony before the House Committee on Higher Education regarding House Bill (HB) 34 and enhancing college access through statewide financial preparation. This testimony emphasizes the importance of FAFSA completion as a college access support.

OpportunityTexas: Learn. Earn. Save. (12/9/2010)
Texas faces numerous challenges but also has abundant opportunities to build the middle class and increase prosperity. Unfortunately, too many Texans are on the sideline, lacking access to opportunities to learn, earn, and save to secure a more prosperous future for themselves and their families.

To create jobs, increase income, and promote savings, Texas must develop and expand programs and policies to ensure greater prosperity for all Texans.

Texas Tuition Promise Fund: Using College Savings To Increase College Success (06/28/2010)

The old saying, “You have to learn to earn,” underscores the importance of investing in higher education. Yet rising tuition, limited financial aid, and a lack of savings keeps college out of reach, and out of mind, for many Texas families, especially low-income families.

Although the Legislature created the Texas Tuition Promise Fund explicitly to reach low-income students, an analysis of the plan’s first two years demonstrates that students who most need college savings accounts largely remain untouched.

To close the gaps, the state must align its college savings plans and master plan for higher education to seamlessly provide incentives for economically disadvantaged students to begin college savings.

Turning Community College Drop-outs into Graduates (04/22/2010)

Texas community colleges have a high dropout rate, which limits economic opportunity for Texans and poses a major barrier to building and sustaining a skilled workforce. Although two-thirds of Texas college-bound high school graduates are prepared for college work, a large number of recent graduates and adults returning to pursue higher education are not college ready. Those underprepared for college face the hurdle of completing remedial courses-known as developmental education-in one or all core subject areas of math, reading, and writing--before enrolling in credit-bearing coursework.

Nationally, fewer than 40 percent of students who are referred to developmental education actually enroll in college-level courses. With emerging demand for higher-skilled workers, developmental education reforms are key to maximizing access to good jobs and moving the Texas economy forward.

On the November Ballot--Proposition 4: Creating More Tier-One Universities in Texas (08/19/2009)

The most important natural resource Texas has is Texans. Unfortunately, our state suffers from a “brain drain” as many of our best and brightest students leave to further their education. A contributing cause is a lack of “tier one” universities in Texas. Proposition 4 (a constitutional amendment to create a National Research University Fund to help fund certain state universities to become nationally recognized research institutions) would provide funding to Texas universities seeking to attain tier-one status. With more university research, the state hopes for new jobs, increased wages, and more state and local tax revenue. This Policy Page describes criteria commonly used to determine tier-one status, the benefits of having more tier-one universities in Texas, progress of selected Texas schools toward tier-one status, and the specifics of Proposition 4.

Inadequate Financial Aid for Higher Education Puts Brakes on Opportunity (12/12/2008)

Meaningful access to higher education is a cornerstone of economic opportunity. Higher educational attainment strengthens the workforce, increases earnings, and often leads to a better quality of life"for individuals and the broader society. To remain competitive in the global marketplace, Texas must support students who are seeking higher education. This policy page discusses the underfunding of Texas’ financial aid programs and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s strategies to improve educational participation and success.

Closing the Educational Gaps: Opening Essay for the 2008-09 Texas KIDS COUNT Data Book (12/11/2008)

Our Texas KIDS COUNT Project reports annually on key measures of child well-being, monitoring our state’s progress to ensure that all Texas children can grow into healthy, secure, and educated citizens who contribute to our common good.

This year’s report includes an essay focusing on the steps Texas must take if we are serious about closing educational gaps between economically advantaged, primarily White students and economically disadvantaged, primarily minority students in achievement (how well children do in school) and attainment (how far children go in school).

Statement by F. Scott McCown on the Texas Supreme Court’s School Finance Ruling (11/22/2005)
Today, the Texas Supreme Court ruled (7 to 1) in the school finance case, holding that local school district property taxes capped at $1.50 per $100 valuation constitute a state property tax prohibited by the constitution but that public school financing does not yet violate the “general diffusion of knowledge” mandate of adequacy, efficiency, or suitability. The Court did not rule that “Robin Hood” or “recapture” is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court extended the trial court’s October 1 deadline for a legislative solution to June 1. Read the statement of retired state district judge Scott McCown, who presided over all of Texas' public school finance cases from 1990-2002.

Analysis of Sixty-Five Percent Rule in School Spending (09/27/2005)
In August, the Governor issued an executive order requiring that “65 percent of school district funds be expended for instructional purposes as defined by the National Center for Education Statistics." Requiring school districts to spend at least 65% of their operating budget on “instruction” as defined by the federal government would not enhance student achievement, would have unintended negative consequences, and would move Texas back to measuring process rather than performance.

The Performance of Public Education in Texas (07/30/2005)
A presentation Scott McCown delivered about the performance of public education in Texas.

Call to Action on School Finance (07/20/2005)
F. Scott McCown's Open Letter to the 79th Legislature urges members to vote "NO" on HB 2, the pending school finance legislation. Make your voice heard. Urge your representative and senator to vote NO.

Learning to Share; Justices Could Ensure Texas Children Get More Than Crumbs: Austin American-Statesman (07/7/2005)
If you have two boys, one big and one small, and you give the big boy a cookie and ask him to share, the little boy will get crumbs. And as long as the big boys are allowed to "share" this way, they won't throw in their nickels to buy a big enough cookie for all of the kids. When it comes to school finance, Texas needs a really big cookie.

How to Judge What's Proposed in the Special Session (06/23/2005)
In the current special session the Legislature could make significant changes to the state’s revenue system, as well as to the school-finance system. The tax system established in a special session could determine the size of state budgets for the next ten years or more. Both tax and school finance proposals can be judged by the same criteria " equity, adequacy, and sustainability. This Policy Page will compare HB 3, the tax bill filed in the House for the special session, the version of the tax bill that the Senate passed during the regular session, the proposal by Governor Perry, and HB 15, an alternative school finance bill filed by Rep. Hochberg for the special session.

Austin Effort to Improve Schools Disappoints Again: Houston Chronicle (03/20/2005)
The Texas House has finished its education and tax bills. Now the Senate goes to work. Let's compare what the House has adopted with where the Senate is starting.

Statement Regarding the House Public Education Committee Plan (02/28/2005)
Before becoming director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities, I was the state district court judge that heard the state's school finance cases from 1989 to 2002, including the Edgewood case and the initial phase of the West Orange Cove case, which is now pending before the Texas Supreme Court.

Testimony to Joint Select Committee on Governor's School Finance (04/19/2004)
I am Scott McCown,testifying on behalf of the Center for Public Policy Priorities. The center is interested in public school finance because education is the pathway to prosperity for low-income Texans. My personal expertise in school finance comes from having presided as a state district judge over our state's school finance cases from 1990-2002.

Governor's School Finance Proposal Uses Flawed Revenue Sources, Reduces Future Funding for State Services, Diminishes School Funding Equity (04/15/2004)
On April 8, as the final installment of his Educational Excellence and Equity Plan, the governor proposed to eliminate "Robin Hood" and dedicate a portion of any future budget surplus to property tax cuts, funded by slot machines, cigarette tax hikes, accounting changes, and fees on adult entertainment. Without the recapture provisions of the current school finance system, the gap between rich and poor schools would explode.

The Solution, if Robin Hood Was a TAKS Problem (04/3/2004)
The Houston Independent School District is misleading parents and taxpayers when it blames Robin Hood for the district's money woes. For example, a recent posting on HISD's Web site claims it is losing $28 million and 124 jobs because of Robin Hood.

Don't Shortchange Public Education (03/30/2004)
Our state is in the grip of a mental illness akin to anorexia nervosa, the relentless pursuit of thinness. Like an anorexic, who reasons that every calorie is a bad calorie, Texans reason that every tax dollar is a bad tax dollar. I invoke this metaphor not to belittle anorexia, which killed one of my cousins, but to warn that our relentless pursuit of low taxes is as sick and as dangerous.

How Much Does Texas Spend on Public Education? (03/1/2004)
The first question many people ask about public school finance seems like the simplest: how much does Texas spend to educate our 4.2 million school children? The answer is important in the current debate about how to raise and distribute money for public education. Before we can decide whether we need to spend more, we have to know how much we are spending now.

Fast Facts About Texas Public School Finance (01/15/2004)
A short reference on public school finance in Texas.

Where Do We Go From Here? Finding a School Finance Solution (01/1/2004)
Presentation before the Texas Association of School Administrators.

Why You Should Care Now About a Special Session on School Finance (09/18/2003)
Any meaningful school finance reform unavoidably involves tax reform. The tax system established in a special session could determine the size of state budgets for the next ten years or more.

Judging Public School Finance Proposals (05/19/2003)
I am Scott McCown, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Thank you for inviting me to talk with you today about how we should fund our public schools.

Testimony on Dewhurst School Finance Plan: SB 2 (05/2/2003)
I am Scott McCown, Executive Director of the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Thank you for inviting my testimony today. I applaud Lt. Governor Dewhurst, Senator Shapiro, and the Senate for proposing a specific school finance plan.

Funding Public Education: Alternative Revenue Sources (05/9/2002)
Testimony before the Joint Select Committee on Public School Finance.

Analysis of Senate Bill 4 (Education Bill) (07/16/1999)
SB 4, the school finance bill, directs nearly $4 billion in additional state funding to public education. The bill targets four areas of the public education system: teacher salaries, facilities financing, property tax rates, and social promotion/early childhood programs. This Policy Page touches only those developments in school finance. Others, contained in the general state budget (HB1) are not described here.

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