Texas on the Brink: Too Few Graduates, Too Many Uninsured

The Texas Legislative Study Group released its 2013 “Texas on the Brink” report at the end of last week. The report is an annual study to determine Texas’ rankings among the 50 states and the District of Columbia on health care, education, and the environment.

How’s Texas doing? Not so great: The state ranks 50th in high school graduation rate, first in amount of carbon emissions, first in hazardous waste produced, last in voter turnout, first in percentage of people without health insurance, and second in percentage of uninsured kids.

“Too many of our children do not have access to health insurance,” said Rep. Garnet Coleman (D-Houston), who led the 2013 study group effort and introduced the report with fellow Democrats in a Capitol press conference on Monday morning.

The report made clear that while legislators are—through restrictions on abortion and cuts to family planning—doing well to ensure that babies are actually being born, representatives at the press conference said too little is being done to ensure that Texas children and their mothers are cared for. Texas ranks third in the nation for overall birth rate, but it also ranks fourth highest for teenage birth rate.

The specifics are worse. Texas ranks the lowest in the nation for women with health insurance, and is the second lowest in the nation for percent of pregnant women receiving prenatal care in the first trimester. Texas also ranks the fourth highest in the nation for percentage of women living in poverty.

According to the report, Texas ranks 44th in graduation rates (contrary to what Gov. Perry has said, the number more accurately reflects Texas’ increasing problem with dropout rates—according to the LSG, Texas has previously boasted high graduation rates because studies often to not take dropout numbers into account) and 47th in SAT scores.

Rep. Abel Herrero (D-Robstown) elaborated on the dismal state of education in Texas. “Texas’ investment per student is 27 percent less than the national average. … Yet, as we’ve seen on the House floor, there are still roadblocks to this state, in getting our children the resources they need to succeed.”

The numbers are worse for higher education. In Texas, only 51% of students earn a bachelor’s degree within six years, meaning that only 17% of Texans will earn a bachelor’s degree, said Rep. Mary Gonzales (D-Clint).

Rep. Lon Burnam (D-Fort Worth) spoke on Texas’ environmental rankings, which weren’t particularly good. “The state of Texas gets an ‘F’ on the environmental comprehensive issues, but what that really means is, it gets an F in healthcare. Not just because we don’t insure our kids, but because we create an environment that is unhealthy for our kids and every other person who breathes in this state. It’s a crisis,” Burnam said. “Across the board, Texas fails its children, in particular, and the general public on environmental and healthcare issues.”

Don’t be too alarmed. It’s not all gloom and doom, Coleman pointed out. Texas currently ranks 46th for credit card debt, and 6th highest for affordability of homes. But, he stressed, it’s not enough.

“This is undoubtedly a difficult time for Texas families and a difficult time for our state,” Coleman said. “Texas on the Brink is designed not to shame Texas, but rather to inspire us to do better. … Moving forward we must be mindful as we set our priorities and solve problems based the information that is available to us today. Texas can do better.”