Report: Texas Kids Benefit From Child-Focused State Spending, and Suffer When Spending Drops

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A new report out this week looks at the public money that Texas spends on kids. The report from the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin shows that when the state invests in children's education, health, and nutrition, the money is actually making a difference.

Previous studies have already shown that Texas children are struggling. For example, a quarter of kids here live in poverty, and 10 percent of kids have no health insurance. Among fourth graders, three-quarters are not reading proficiently.

What the new study did was examine the link between those conditions and the level of state spending on children.

“What we found was that thankfully when we invested more money, we actually saw better outcomes for kids.”

Frances Deviney is with the Center for Public Policy Priorities. She says that in the study, the outcomes you might intuitively expect — spend more on kids’ healthcare, and kids get healthier — did hold true. But the data also showed that investing in one area also helps kids in other areas.

“We found that when you invested in nutrition programs for kids, we saw increases in their education outcomes. So it makes sense, right? When kids go to school fed and ready to learn, they’re going to do better. So when they have a full tummy at school. So those are some really exciting findings.”

State spending per child increased in Texas from 1990 to 2003, but flattened out after that.

Deviney argues that the state does have enough in its Rainy Day fund to restore recent cuts to spending on kids, and perhaps spend more to keep up with the growth in the state’s child population.

She says the point of this report is to show legislators that it’s worth it.

“A lot of times people argue against making investments in public education, or making investments in health, because they say ‘Oh, we’re just throwing money at a problem,’ that we’re not actually doing anything. Well, we found was that Texas in fact was really good at spending the tight dollars that we have. When we have money to do for our kids, we do well for them and they benefit from it.”

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Carrie Feibel

Health & Science Reporter

Carrie Feibel is KUHF's health and science reporter. She comes to Houston Public Radio after ten years as a print reporter...