Texas remains behind most other states on issues related to educational achievement, public health and the environment, according to the latest version of the "Texas on the Brink" study, released Monday.
The sixth edition of the report from the Texas Legislative Study Group, a left-leaning research caucus in the House, says the state has the nation’s highest rate of uninsured residents, ranks 50th in the percentage of the population with a high school degree and has the highest carbon emissions of any state. The study ranked the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Texas legislators should prioritize funding and support for education to improve quality of life in Texas, state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, chairman of the Legislative Study Group, said at a news conference Monday about the study. The state should protect Texas’ future by restoring the cuts made last session to public education and “making sure the amount of money that goes into the budget is growing the budget appropriately for the new students coming in and for the resources they need to be successful,” he added. He also said an expansion of Medicaid would improve health care access for Texans.
The report also examines Texas' ranking in areas like women's issues, workforce and public safety.
Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, another member of the Legislative Study Group, pointed out the state’s high teen birth rate — fourth-highest in the nation, according to the report. A lack of proper sex education perpetuates cycles of poverty, Walle said.
“I have personal experience with this issue as a son of a teen mother,” Walle said. “Texas children cannot continue to be losers in this state. It’s our responsibility to give our children a better option.”
Chuck DeVore, the vice president of policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, said the report is misleading on several counts — for example, some poverty rankings do not account for the cost of living in the state, which is lower than the national average, and some states with higher rates of insured residents have many more people on Medicaid who do not have access to good health care.
"Every year there are basically accusations of this type that are trotted out by this group or other allied groups," DeVore said. "Every year, Americans keep flocking to Texas for jobs and opportunities. Every year, the Texas budget grows. Tax revenues seem to be on an upward trajectory."
The report has a few bright spots. Coleman noted that Texas has more affordable housing and lower credit card debt compared with most of the country.
"This is undoubtedly a difficult time for Texas families and a difficult time for our state," Coleman said. "'Texas on the Brink' was developed not to shame Texas but to inspire us to do better."