Back to School?
Column Published in syndication January 26, 2022

As with every other aspect of life, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the decision process of high school graduates as they weigh work-or-school choices. May 2020 was the worst of the downturn, with millions of jobs disappearing overnight. Simultaneously, most colleges had shifted at least partially to online classes. Family financial strains due to COVID-19 disruptions were also prevalent. It was something of a perfect storm.

Falling STAAR
Column Published in syndication June 30, 2021

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) recently released results of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) for spring 2021. (See https://tea.texas.gov/sites/default/files/2021-staar-analysis-presentation.pdf for a summary.) The tests cover mathematics and reading for grades 3–8 as well as writing and science for some grades, 8th grade social studies, and high school end-of-course exams in Algebra I, English I, English II, Biology, and US History. The results indicate abysmal outcomes pretty much across the board when compared to 2019, as districts struggled to deal with disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Show Us The Money
Column Published in syndication April 07, 2021

Even before the pandemic, Texas schools faced daunting challenges. About 88% of students were economically disadvantaged. Two ethnic groups that comprised about two-thirds of enrollment (and rapidly growing) held less than 8% of the state's wealth. Many districts had massive infrastructure deficiencies, while others struggled to keep pace with explosive growth. As if that weren't enough, Texas ranked 41st nationally in spending per student.

Universities and COVID
Column Published in syndication July 22, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic emerged this spring, college campuses across the United States swiftly sent students home in droves and switched to online distance learning. The quick transition came with hopes and expectations that things would be largely back to normal by the fall. However, such is not the case, and uncertainty is growing as the time to prepare is diminishing.

COVID Slide
Column Published in syndication July 15, 2020

The debate surrounding reopening schools this fall seems to intensify daily. Students, parents, teachers, administrators, and government officials are struggling to weigh questions of safety against the realities of remote learning. It's a difficult issue with no easy or universal answers.

Nonprofits: A Closer Look
Column Published in syndication February 12, 2020

In a recent column, I talked about the enormous economic benefits of Texas nonprofit entities. We estimate that when multiplier effects are considered, ongoing operations of Texas nonprofits include $110.0 billion in annual gross product and nearly 1.4 million jobs (about one-eighth of all private-sector jobs in the state). In response to several requests, let's take a closer look at the types of organizations and their positive impacts.

Education and Income
Column Published in syndication October 23, 2019

It is widely known that, in general, more education leads to higher incomes. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks median weekly earnings by education level, and recently released a summary of results going back to 2010. The differences are striking and undeniable.

Keys to Texas' Economic Success
Column Published in syndication November 22, 2017

I was recently asked by the House Select Committee on Economic Competitiveness to offer a perspective on some of the issues affecting Texas' future performance. The Committee's purpose in the hearing was to address "principles that... should guide the state's pursuit of long-term economic growth." I am pleased that members of the legislature are thinking in these terms, as it is essential to long-term prosperity.

To Choose or Not To Choose: The School Choice Debate
Column Published in syndication November 23, 2016

One issue that is shaping up to be a major focus of the next legislative session is school choice. Texas came close to passing a bill last legislative session that would have made up to $100 million in tax credits available annually for businesses donating to scholarship funds, but while the legislation passed in the Senate last year, it failed to reach a vote in the House. For the upcoming season, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has vowed to pass an even better tax credit scholarship program along with other school choice legislation.

Time for Action
Column Published in syndication November 02, 2016

There is much to be done when the Texas Legislature convenes on January 10 for the 85th regular session. Meeting only 140 days every two years naturally leads to a long to-do list, but this time the stakes are particularly high. It is time to take action and deal with several difficult issues lest we face even larger challenges down the road.