The elephant in the classroom: healthcare costs are dwindling available funds for education.

If you asked someone at the Legislative Budget Board to produce a graph that demonstrated the overall trend in expenditures in Texas since 2000, it would look something like this:

(All of the above data and the following data was obtained from the budget page of the Legislative Budget Board's website.)

Obviously it's pretty clear that spending in basically every category has gone up a bit every legislative session since 2000. I highlighted education for two reasons:

1) Education is my profession and it's what I primarily write about; and

2) The graph shows that for the most part, anyone who claims that the state continues to pump more and more money into education is technically correct.

However, this general increase should be expected because:

A) the overall population in Texas continues to rise, which...

B) brings in more taxes, allowing for...

C) more spending across the board.

In other words, this chart...

...makes the chart at the top of this post possible.

Now, this general increase in all areas doesn't really tell us much about the state's priorities in regards to expenditures.

To learn that, you'd have to analyze the amount spent for each category in relation to the total budget and see what sort of changes are visible.

I wanted to see those changes, so...that's what I did.

I've highlighted two categories---Agencies of Education (yellow) and Health and Human Services (red)---because they are the only categories that had an overall percentage change greater than 2%.

Over the past nine legislative sessions, two things happened:

1) The percentage of the total budget spent on Health and Human Services has increased by 7% (more specifically, it's 7.9%).

2) The percentage of the total budget spent on Agencies of Education has decreased by 7% (again, more specifically, 7.89%).

Now, within Agencies of Education, you have two categories: Public Education and Higher Education. If you display those categories separately, here's what that looks like:

Public Education (yellow) is down 4%. Higher Education (blue) is down 5%.

The House and Senate can meet all they want about increasing school funding, but if we don't have serious discussion about healthcare costs ALONGSIDE any discussions about additional funds for education, then these trends will continue.

The sad thing is that these trends hit our schools in two ways.

A decreasing pool of money to push towards our schools means less funds to do what we need to do for our kids and our teachers.

And the increasing cost of healthcare hits our teachers' (current and retired) pocketbooks, negating any raise they might see at the close of this legislative session.

Regardless of which education finance bill gets passed this session, if the increase in funding isn't matched by a dedicated focus on reducing healthcare costs, any increase for our public schools will not be sustainable.

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