The Kansas school spending establishment is making the case that Kansas should not sink to the level of Texas in any area, especially schools. They point to various measures that, they say, show that Kansas schools are much better than Texas schools. They argue that we must increase school spending so that we don’t fall to Texas’ level.
So if you were the parent of a low-income student, or a student who is a member of an ethnic minority group, in which state would you rather have your child attend school?
The Kansas school spending establishment has an answer for that question.
But let’s look at data. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as “The Nation’s Report Card,” holds some results that can be used to compare Kansas and Texas schools. That test has Kansas scoring better than Texas (with one tie) in reading and math, in both fourth and eighth grade.
But Kansas and Texas are different states, demographically. As shown in Kansas school test scores in perspective, when we look at subgroups, all the sudden the picture is different: Texas has the best scores in all cases, except for two ties. Similar patterns exist for previous years.
Kansas students score better than Texas students, that is true. It is also true that Texas white students score better than Kansas white students, Texas black students score better than Kansas black students, and Texas Hispanic students score better than or tie Kansas Hispanic students.
How can these seemingly contradictory facts all be true? The article I referenced above explains Simpson’s Paradox, which is what applies in this case.
What about low-income students in Kansas and Texas? The usual way to categorize students as low-income is if they are eligible for the National School Lunch Program. The following table shows NAEP scores for Kansas and Texas, presented by Race/ethnicity and eligibility for the lunch program.
In the table, I shade the cells for the state with the best score. While there are ties, in no case does Kansas outperform Texas.
By the way, Texas spends less on schools than does Kansas. In 2009, Kansas spent $11,427 per student. Texas spent $11,085, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Considering only spending categorized by NCES to be for instruction purposes, it was Kansas at $6,162 per student and Texas at $5,138.
Texas also has larger class sizes, or more precisely, a higher pupil/teacher ratio. Texas has 14.56 students for each teacher. In Kansas, it’s 13.67. (2009 figures, according to NCES.)