When you think about excellence in public education, one state that probably doesn’t come to mind is Texas. Of course, there are bright students in Texas, like there are everywhere. But it seems that they excel in spite of the system, rather than because of it.
Consider a few quick facts about Texas public schools and the students they produce.
- As of 2014, Texas ranked 47th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in average SAT scores.
- That same year, the state had an average per pupil expenditure of $8,299, which put it at 45 out of 51 in that department.
- Teacher pay in the Lone Star state isn’t great, either. $48,819 is the average salary for a Texas educator. That puts them at 34th on that list.
And you wonder why Texas elects so many people of questionable intelligence to public office.
So it’s pretty obvious that in general, Texas doesn’t do education very well. But there’s one thing that the state does really, really well, and it may be part of the reason that the education system isn’t better. That thing is football.
Texas high school football is supported at a level that even the most ardent supporters of the sport in other areas would consider insane. Think about your high school football field. If you’re like most people, you probably went to a school where the field consisted of a couple of goal posts, lights, a small press box, and wooden or aluminum bleachers on each side. But if you went to high school in Texas, chances are that your school had a football stadium that would rival those at many small colleges. Football in Texas is simply out of control.
Last weekend, voters in McKinney, Texas approved the school district’s plans to build a $62.8 million football stadium that will seat 12,000 people. McKinney Independent School District Superintendent Rick McDaniel was delighted with the outcome, saying “We’re visionaries.” The stadium proposal was part of a $220 million bond package the district took before citizens. Yes, schools will get a lot of other nice things from this money as well, but consider that over 25 percent of the total cost of the package will be devoted to football rather than education, and you sort of have to wonder about the priorities of many Texans.
McKinney isn’t the only district to build a stadium like this. Not too far from McKinney, Allen Independent School District football is played in a stadium that taxpayers shelled out $60 million for. Football is a big deal in Texas, and it doesn’t seem to matter that out of over a million high school football players in the country, only 6.5 percent of them make a college team, and 1.5 percent ever play in the NFL, where the average career is only three years.
I guess Texas has to be number one in something. But if they invested just half of the money they spend on high school football for things involving actual education, they might see improvements in student outcomes. Then they could stop saying, “At least we’re not Mississippi.”
Here’s a report on McKinney’s $62 million high school football palace:
Featured image via Wikipedia