Report: State Can Do More Now, Save Later
The secret to a future economic boom in Texas is how the state cares for its children. That is the conclusion of a new report released by the group Texans Care for Children. The study, titled "Solutions to Our Texas Challenge," outlines 30 recommendations to improve the lives of children and, in turn, the Texas economy. "There are plenty of opportunities for the state of Texas to save money in the long run by putting in some preventive measures up front," says professor Pat Wong from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, who helped lead the study. He tells KTRH that by providing better schooling and healthcare to kids now, Texas can avoid having to support them later when they become adults. "We are talking about making sure that all children from all income groups can have quality education, so they can earn a good living and be self-sufficient," he says.
The report comes just days after a Texas judge ruled the state's current education funding system is in violation of the state constitution. While the study didn't directly look at the impact of education funding, Professor Wong says state lawmakers should at least halt the current trend. "The first step is to stop cutting back on our education funding and social service funding." However, he doesn't recommend a blanket increase in school spending. In fact, he notes the amount of money spent isn't necessarily as important as where it is spent. "School breakfast, for example, is not a particularly expensive program, but it does wonders for children from very low income families," he says.
The report goes far beyond education, and also makes recommendations for improving child nutrition and mental health services, and reducing school dropout and teen pregnancy rates. But perhaps the biggest area of concern noted in the report is child poverty. The research estimates that Texas could save between $14 billion and $20 billion per year by lowering its child poverty rate to the national average of 20%. Texas' child poverty rate is 27%.
Read the full "Solutions to Our Texas Challenge" report here.