Education is the bedrock of an informed society and the bridge to self-sufficiency. Every parent in Texas, from Texarkana to Brownsville, regardless of their race or circumstance, wants their child to have access to a high-quality education. Most parents assume schools receive enough funding to support their child’s education.
Unfortunately, the Texas school finance system left nearly 300,000 students uncounted in the 2021-22 school year. In the first year of the pandemic, 8% of kids, or nearly 433,000 students, were uncounted — even after the Texas Education Agency (TEA) made adjustments due to COVID-19 attendance loss. For perspective, that’s nearly the entire school population of Arkansas.
Undercounts happen because Texas continues to use an archaic method to fund our schools. Instead of using enrollment — the number of actual students served — our state determines funding based on attendance. Currently, only six states use attendance-based funding (CA, ID, KY, MS, MO, TX).
Not a lot of research shows that tying funding to attendance improves attendance. However, studies do show that attendance is higher when schools create a positive experience and have good relationships with caring adults. Schools can strengthen attendance by promoting parent engagement and collaborating with community-based organizations that focus on the social, emotional, and financial wellbeing of students and their families.
Attendance and chronic absenteeism should be addressed in the Closing the Gap domain of the A-F accountability system. This way, schools and districts would report and be held accountable for absentee rates of subgroups of students. Tying funding to attendance hurts schools that need resources the most.
Every student, regardless of where they live or their specific needs, should be accounted for in school funding. With the state reporting record levels of cash on hand, it’s time to put kids first and count every student.