Krugman blames Texas' 'austerity' for drop-out rate

Paul Krugman’s latest column is yet another waste of NYT editorial real estate. He take to the the Paper of Reactionary Zeal to blame the Lone Star State’s drop-out rate on its budgetary frugality.


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.

Slight problem here, namely, the cause and effect relationship that Krugman implies. If low state spending leads to high state dropout rates, as Krugman suggests, then riddle me this: Why does California spend more per pupil, yet have a higher dropout rate? And why does New York spend even more per pupil than California and Texas, and also have a higher drop-out rate? And why does the District of Columbia spend almost twice as much money per pupil as Texas, and yet have a much higher dropout rate than Texas?

Don’t take my word for it: Here’s a chart showing the state dropout rates, and here’s a chart showing state spending per pupil. They’re not for the same year, but the trends are fairly consistent year to year. More government spending does not necessarily lead to higher graduation rates. It’s not that simple, especially in states where the requirement to educate the children of illegal aliens grows year by year.


Will there be cuts in education in Texas over the coming two-year period? Yes, undoubtedly there will. Education takes up about 56% of the state’s budget (higher ed plus public ed), so it stands to reason that when the cuts come, some will hit that massive portion of the budget.  And some cuts will hit elsewhere. When it comes time to cut education, I hope that legislators and school districts take a very hard look at where the fat really is. In Texas, the fat isn’t necessarily with the teachers, but the administrators. Some Texas school superintendents are making in the neighborhood of $250,000 per year in salary and benefits. I wrote about this last year for PJM:

Round Rock Superintendent Dr. Jesus Chavez has 14 years experience and is the only superintendent who agreed to talk to KVUE about superintendent salaries. His base salary is $250,000 a year.

“I don’t think superintendents get paid too much,” he said. “There is a shortage of superintendents, principals and other top level administrators. So the market and the qualifications that one brings makes it competitive.”

That works out to just shy of six bucks per student.


He’s not even the highest paid super in the area: Austin’s superintendent makes about $276,000 last time I checked. Why are we paying school administrators so much money? And what do salary structures look like at the levels just below superintendent? Are they really worth these extravagant benefits we lavish on them out of the public treasury? I find it pretty hard to justify making local public school bureaucrats rich, especially when taxpayers are hurting and the states are going broke. Perhaps Krugman doesn’t agree, and thinks we should just keep spending more without looking at where the money is going, or the impact it has when it is taken from the taxpayer. If that’s his position, he should make that argument.


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