The Texas Legislative Study Group is a caucus of around 50 Democratic representatives from the Texas House, and they're real buzzkills. The LSG keeps a full-time staff of policy analysts around, who almost every year since 2003 have released a report called "Texas on the Brink," detailing all the most depressing statistics our state has to offer, mainly in the arenas of environment, public health, and overall quality of life. In 2011, for example, the LSG reported that Texas had the highest birth rate, "the worst rate of women with health insurance, and the worst rate of pregnant women receiving prenatal care in the first trimester," per the Texas Tribune. Two years ago, we also did real, real bad on high school graduation rates, as well as mental health and Medicaid spending.
It's a great read. Not terrifying at all. That's why we were so excited to hear that the LSG is presenting their 2013 report to the Legislature this morning. So, how'd we stack up this year? Spoiler alert: not well.
Let's start with education, where the study found that Texas has the second highest rate in the nation of enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools. Yet we rank 43rd in spending per student at the K-12 level for those public schools (in other words, more students, but less money being spent on their education). Texas also ranks dead last in the percentage of the state population who have graduated from high school.
Outside of school, our children are also doing poorly. We now have the second highest birthrate in the nation, as well as the second highest percentage of uninsured kids. We lead the nation in both uninsured adults and uninsured elders, and rank dead last, once again, in per capita mental health spending. In average monthly WIC benefits (which go of course, to low-income women and their young children) we've somehow we've managed to rank 51st. (That's because WIC benefits are offered in Puerto Rico, which outranks us.)
Turning to the ladies, we also ranked 51st in the number of non-elderly women with health insurance, as well as in voter turnout among women. We're also last in the percentage of pregnant women who get prenatal care in the first trimester and near the bottom in the number of women who've seen a dentist in the past year, or women older than 44 who have received a mammogram. Yet we managed a relatively respectable 36th place in the number of women who were able to seek out and receive contraceptives.
In environmental issues, we rank number one in the "amount of hazardous waste generated" and first in carbon dioxide emissions. We're also in the top five for states who release a bunch of cancer-causing carcinogens into the water.
The easiest way to quibble with these statistics, because someone is bound to, would probably be to argue that they're presented by a group of Democrats, complaining about a Republican-run state. But the stats themselves come from reliable, non-partisan sources: the Kaiser Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the EPA and the FBI, among others. But don't fear. There are still areas in which Texas continues to lead the nation: We're still first in executions and fourth in overall incarcerations. Our birth rate and teen birth rate are also still impressively high. Also, our bridges are very safe. Second best in the nation. So there's that.
The full report is below. Feel free to print it out, read it over and then clutch it to your chest, weeping. Or simply keep it in mind the next time Governor Rick Perry goes around touting his "economic miracles."
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.