Road Trip Heads to Oklahoma

February 12, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Over on the Ed Fly blog I have a post on the age demography challenge in Oklahoma from Turn and Face the Strain. Spoiler alert: if Oklahoma’s K-12 system has a next 15 years similar to the last 15 years they will be adding to what looks to be already looks to be a very considerable challenge in 2030.

Oklahoma strain



Will Texas Turn to Face the Strain?

February 5, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Road trip! First stop- Texas!

Over the next few weeks I’ll pick a few states whose age demography data to examine a bit more closely from our new study Turn and Face the Strain. Rather than start with a state that looks to be in huge trouble, let’s start with one with the potential to rule the roost of the year 2030 if only it could put its affairs in order.

When we peer into the United States Census Bureau’s forecasts for Texas, the news is challenging vis a vis today but relatively forgiving compared to the rest of the nation. Texas will be one of the six states with an elderly population smaller than the percentage in Florida in 2030 according to Census projections.

Hurricane Gray is going to hit Texas, but in relative terms it will be delivering a glancing blow- mostly due to the fact that the state has a huge youth population now (potentially very handy for 2030).

Here is the Census Bureau’s projection for the total age dependency ratio of Texas between 2010 and 2030:



And here are the gory details:


Mind you, this is no walk in the park- the Census Bureau projects the elderly population to more than double and educating an additional 1.6 million students is not free. The projected total age dependency ratio is far higher than any state has now. Texas however has some powerful factors working in its favor, including robust job growth, two of the world’s great oil fields and that large youth population destined to turn into a huge working age population.

Oh, about that huge youth population, well:

Texas K-12 ethnic breakdown


Texas 8th Grade NAEP Reading

The need to improve K-12 results is the Achilles heel of the Texas juggernaut. Among Anglo 8th graders 43% proficiency among 30 percent of the total student population gets you 12.6% of the total student population reading proficiently as 8th graders. Seventeen percent of the 50% of Texas students who are Hispanic nets you another 8.5% of the total population. African-Americans contribute less that 2 percent. There is nothing acceptable about any of this.

Call me crazy but this does not look like a recipe for either prosperity or a stable democracy in the decades ahead. Let’s just put it on the table that having far more Hispanic students scoring “Below Basic” than proficient in reading is incredibly dangerous for the future of Texas.

Texas Hispanic

It’s not too late for Texas but her policymakers are going to need to walk outside of the school district industrial lobbying complex echo chamber (aka the Texas Capitol) and think deeply about where the education status-quo is taking the nation’s leading state. Alternatively a new set of voices need to intrude on the conversation in a dramatic fashion. Sure the state can import college educated workers from other states with less vibrant economies, but no one should be under the delusion that simply going through the motions of educating a huge majority of students is not going to bite you in the end-it inevitably will.

Just as important, it places an incredible strain on the way Texans desperately want to see ourselves-as an opportunity society.  Texas can go either way-towards a nationally leading and globally significant society or towards a deeply bifurcated state with a small and pale minority nervously attempting to prosper among a large majority ill-equipped to prosper in a changing world (see California circa now). Texas will need to choose to embrace the ideals of America or the realities of Brazil. Every additional year of inaction brings the state another step closer to Brazil.

New Report-Turn and Face the Strain

February 4, 2015

Turn and Face the Strain

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Excel in Ed and the Friedman Foundation have co-released a study on state age demographics authored by yours truly.  The title reflects a couple of different things. First, I dig me some Bowie. Second, people are generally aware of the looming crisis in age demography we face, but they primarily have it framed as a federal issue. With 10,000 baby boomers reaching retirement age every day between now and 2030 (when they all reach retirement age) this certainly does represent a federal issue- trillions of dollars of unfunded liabilities in Social Security and Medicare, etc. The federal issue is not the only issue…

State policymakers must turn and face the strain that changing age demography will have on state government in the form of Medicaid, public pensions, a drag on economic growth and in many states an increasing K-12 population. Spoiler alert but all states have it bad with some states having it far worse than others.

The Baby Boom generation has already started retiring, and will be sending their grandchildren off to school. The United States Census Bureau projects the percentage of working age people to shrink in every state, meaning fewer people in the prime earning (and thus taxpaying) years to support a growing number of seniors and youth.  All states will be getting older, with only a handful of states projected to have a smaller elderly population than 2010 Florida by 2030. Many states also face large projected youth population increases.  With Medicaid currently constituting 23 percent of the average state budget and education approximately half, a fierce battle between the need for health and education spending looms with fewer working age people to foot the bill.

A great many of the working age population of 2030 btw sit in American classrooms right now. According to NAEP around a third of them can read proficiently. While a broad and difficult rethinking of the provision of vital public services will prove necessary including especially subjects such as health, pensions, immigration-the most urgent need is to improve both the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of the K-12 system.

Most of the K-12 debate ultimately boils down to whether or not to change the status-quo. The status quo however is going to change us whether we like it or not.

More over on the EdFly blog, let me know what you think.

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