Historically, Texas has overcome these shortfalls through migration, with well-educated people moving to Texas, often from other states, in pursuit of jobs and a better life. But Texas can’t rely on migration forever, and native Texans should have an equal chance to achieve success.
Texas’ ability to educate its people will determine whether the state achieves its potential in its third century. Educated people are healthier and more civically engaged than uneducated people. Their jobs are more resilient to disruption, whether from pandemics or automation.
The coronavirus has put a cruel spotlight on the differences and difficulties Texans face in accessing the skills and education they will need to prosper in the years ahead.
Take broadband internet connections, which are increasingly necessary for children to learn, adults to work, and families to access services like doctors’ appointments. Right now, only 66% of Texas households subscribe to fixed broadband service, which puts us last among our peer states. That rate plummets in rural areas and low-income communities.
Further, since the pandemic began, 1.25 million Texans have lost their jobs. Many of those jobs may never return, so Texas should consider using state and federal resources to teach and retrain workers so they can fill positions in higher-wage, in-demand fields.
In addition, more than 5 million students have seen their educations interrupted. Such learning loss today can translate into diminished opportunity tomorrow, so local and state leaders must move aggressively to identify and remediate learning loss and prevent learning loss next school year.
The questions Texas faces extend beyond education. Will businesses have the infrastructure to enable an economic recovery? Will Texans feel safe and protected in their communities? Can government provide efficient services to taxpayers? Will our state have the energy, water and agricultural assets needed to ensure the economy prospers?
Such questions might seem unsettling. They shouldn’t.
We still have time to address all of these things, and we’re Texas. Our history is marked by ingenuity and drive — it reassures that if anyone is up for this challenge, it’s Texans.
By taking action now, we won’t just forestall problems. We’ll also create chances for future Texans to leave their own legacy of prosperity.
In this, the strategic framework illuminates potential as much as problems. If Texans and their leaders begin working to make a real difference on these vital issues — especially as we rebuild our economy and workforce — then the opportunities described in the framework are clear and exciting.
These things will only become problems if we ignore what the data shows us. So let’s take action. That’s how the story of Texas was written, and that’s how the next generation of Texans can add their own inspiring chapter to it.