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Celebrating Our #TribFest20 Anniversary … with Data

Without data, you’re just a person with an opinion. So, Texas 2036 partnered with The Texas Tribune on our FAST FACTS video series, illuminating big issues facing Texas.

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By Margaret Spellings TEXAS 2036

Margaret Spellings is Texas 2036’s president and CEO and former U.S. Secretary of Education. She also serves on The Texas Tribune board.

As an organization, Texas 2036 is defined by data.

Tom Luce, our founder and chairman, likes to say, “Without data, you are just a person with an opinion.” But with data, we can put our opinions to work creating policy solutions to meet Texas’ needs and ensure that our state remains the best place to live and work for generations to come.

Tom launched Texas 2036 to create a focus on — and constituency for — long-term, data-driven planning efforts that will help ensure Texas remains the best place to live and work through our bicentennial in 16 years and beyond. That vision culminated in Texas 2036’s Shaping Our Future: A Strategic Framework for Texas.

We believe data will help Texans answer the questions that will define the state’s future: Texas spent billions of dollars on health care last year – how well did we do? How are our schools doing? Are students getting the skills employers covet? Are the services that Texas’ two-year, $250 billion state budget pays for meeting the needs and expectations of customers and citizens?

These are some of the many questions that panelists will take up this month at The Texas Tribune’s annual Tribune Festival. At last year’s festival, we launched our new website, announced our statewide board, and introduced ourselves to thousands of Texans who appreciate smart, data-driven conversations about Texas’ present and its future. We also hosted a series of panel discussions on Congress Avenue in Austin, practically in the shadow of the Texas Capitol, spotlighting key thought leaders and decision-makers who offered provocative perspectives on a wide range of burning issues.

For a data-driven organization like ours, it really was a festival.

“This year, to align with #TribFest20’s month-long virtual format, we partnered again with the Tribune on a series of FAST FACTS videos. Each one seeks to provide sourced, factual information across 15 important topic areas such as education, health care, criminal justice and more.”

The videos provide key facts and figures that help set the table for solutions-oriented discussions about Texas’ future. They align with the festival’s compelling programming and panelists.

“The videos are a small product of the more than 350 datasets that Texas 2036 has amassed in our Data Lab. We also built a new COVID-19 dashboard to show how well Texas is responding to the pandemic and how it’s affecting individual counties. And we’re about to add nearly 200 more datasets to our collection.”

Such data shows how well Texas is really doing. It creates and offers indicators to show know where Texas is going.

Good data needs to be reported regularly, accessible to the public, and formatted so that it can be easily analyzed. That can be a challenge, since Texas’ 254 counties often collect information differently from each other and from the state. Still, with the right analysis and technology, even this wide range of data can be comprehensive enough to pinpoint problems and track progress.

Data is also key to setting goals and making sure they’re the right ones. In June, Texas 2036 released a strategic framework that takes a comprehensive look at forces shaping the state’s future. The framework sets out 36 strategic goals in seven policy areas, ranging from prosperity and quality of life, to education and health, to infrastructure and government performance. In nearly every case, we identify a data set that measures Texas’ progress toward that goal — and illuminates why it’s a goal worth pursuing.

Your interest in this topic and this event shows you understand how important data is to Texas’ future. Now, Texas needs you.

“Please take a look at these facts, contribute your voice, and join us and people across the state in advocating for long-term solutions to this growing state’s challenges.”

Check out our social media channels, which will feature these videos all month. Text TXFACTS to 52886. Visit our website, tell us which issues are most important to you, and help us continue the conversation about these important topics.

To decide where we want to go tomorrow, Texans first need to know where we are today. Good, reliable data is our map. If we come together to follow it, we can make sure Texas is the best place to live and work for future generations.

Texas 2036 builds long-term, data-driven strategies that will secure Texas’ prosperity through its bicentennial and beyond.