Education in Texas does not compare well to the other states - a situation the political leadership in the state has grappled with for decades. Despite years of discussion, political wrangling, and judicial coercion, Texas ranks in the bottom half of the fifty states in state-level spending on primary and secondary education. In per capita spending it ranks 33rd and in percent of personal income spent on education it ranks 29th. 
These below-average expenditures, combined with the specific challenges of immigration and poverty that Texas confronts, are reflected in educational performance measures like the SAT. In 2003 the state ranked 46th among the 50 states in its mean combined score for the verbal and math components. The Lone Star state's mean score of 993 was more than one hundred points below the national average. This chapter's feature Educated Enough? provides a more extensive look at SAT and ACT test scores in Texas, and how they compare to other states.
The state has made tradeoffs in favor of funding public safety and corrections instead of investing in public universities and post secondary education. The state's own Comptroller of Public Accounts points out that from the 1984-1985 state budget through the 2000-2001 the state increased real public safety and corrections spending by 258 percent, but increased real public and higher education spending by only 82 and 39 percent, respectively, during the same period. 
These trade-offs in the uses of state expenditures can have a profound impact on the overall performance of the state's economy. According to the State Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, "Every dollar invested in our state's higher education system pumps more than five dollars into our Texas economy. It is a remarkable return on our money for Texans today and a vital stake in the future for successful generations of Texans tomorrow." This analysis should also be considered in the context of significant political contention over education. How to fund education equally has been a significant political issue in Texas as successive legislatures have attempted without success to comprehensively address a public policy issue that has steadily gained in public scrutiny. Public concern about education has grown in almost all areas connected to the issue, from equality of funding - as this feature from the Constitution chapter chapter explores - to the overall amount of funding, to the effectiveness of public schools.
6 Based on U.S. Census data compiled by the Rockefeller Institute of Government, Gateway to State and Local Information, link: "States Ranked by Total Elementary and Secondary Educational Expenditures in Fiscal Year 2000"," [accessed on 9/23/03].
7 "The Impact of the State Higher Education System on the Texas Economy," Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, January 2003.