Local Districts Beat DISD on Spending, Results

School bus | Image by Sergii Figurnyi

Amid debates in the Texas Legislature over school choice legislation this year, Dallas ISD Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde has been lambasting the notion, claiming that such a policy would sap taxpayer resources from struggling public school systems.

However, Dallas ISD has been spending more per student than many surrounding school districts and yielding dismal results when it comes to student achievement scores. In fact, the district has been adopting bigger budgets even as student enrollment has been declining over the last several years, according to the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

During the 2021-2022 school year, only 41% of Dallas ISD students scored at grade level on their STAAR exams. Additionally, nearly 20% of the district’s graduating Class of 2022 failed to earn a high school diploma in four years, per the latest Texas Education Agency accountability reports.

That school year, Dallas ISD’s board of trustees adopted a $2.225 billion budget, spending roughly $15,188 each on its 143,430 students.

Meanwhile, a number of school systems have been spending less per student and achieving far better outcomes for the children in their charge.

Nearby Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, for instance, spent about $13,470 per student during the 2021-2022 school year on its 13,930 young scholars. Some 68% of its students scored at grade level on their STAAR tests that school year, and the district graduated 95.7% of its Class of 2022 on time.

Grapevine-Colleyville ISD was not the only school district in North Texas to boast such a bang for its taxpayer buck that school year.

Keller ISD spent even less — approximately $12,770 per pupil — on its 34,336 students. The district saw about 60% of its students score at grade level and clocked an on-time graduation rate of 93.4%.

For its part, Denton ISD, with its $300.7 million budget, spent just $9,460 on each of its 31,771 students and managed to log a 46% at-grade-level score. While the metric is a modest five percentage points higher than Dallas ISD’s, the district graduated 97.6% of its Class of 2022 on time, a much higher success rate than that achieved by the second-biggest school system in Texas.

In a poll conducted by The Dallas Express last September, respondents were asked why they thought Dallas ISD was one of the worst-performing school systems in Texas. A plurality of 49% suggested “mismanagement” was the primary cause.

Dallas ISD and its board of trustees could not immediately be reached for comment.

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