By Lynn Ashby 14 March 2011
We’re Number 1 or maybe 50th. It depends on what we’re discussing, the amount of carbon dioxide emissions or SAT scores, historical plaques or the percentage of the population with a high school diploma. It’s always fun – well, maybe depressing – to see how Texas stacks up against the 49 dwarfs. For example, Texas ranks third in teen pregnancies, and it is Number 1 in repeat teen pregnancies. Yet Texas receives more federal funds than any other state to teach kids total abstinence. So much for that idea. We have the highest percentage of uninsured children in the nation, fifth in child poverty.
We are second in public school enrollment, 38th in current expenditures per student (which is about to be cut) and 33rd in average salary of public school teachers. Texas is dead last in the percentage of residents with a high school diploma. Its high school graduation rate: 43rd. UT-Austin and Texas A&M-College Station are the only Texas public institutions of higher education ranked in the top 100 in U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges in the U.S., with UT-Austin at 45 and Texas A&M at 63. But Rice, a private school, is in there, too. Fifty percent of college freshman in Texas are enrolled in remedial or developmental classes, compared with 28 percent nationwide.
On the other hand, we rank at the top in many categories. Like executions. Last year we had 17, more than any other state. Ohio was far behind with eight. Don’t worry, we’ll stay Number 1 — we currently have 333 convicts on Death Row awaiting the needle, but it’s early in the day. Some stats can be confusing. I have read that Texas has the highest birth rate in the nation and also read that it is only second highest. Make up your mind.
When it comes to ranking what we breathe and drink, we are, indeed, the rankest. We’re first in the amount of volatile organic compounds released into the air, first in toxic chemicals released into the water and first in recognized cancer-causing carcinogens released into the air. As for the release of carbon dioxide, Texas would rank seventh in the world if it were its own country. Our amount is more than California and Pennsylvania — the second- and third-ranking states — combined. Sort of makes us swell with pride, or maybe just swell. Incidentally, Texas consumes more coal than any other state. Could all this be somehow linked?
Some of these depressing quality-of-life stats come from “Texas on the Brink,” now in its fifth edition, which was started in 2003. Since then the job has been taken over by the Legislative Study Group or LSG, a caucus formed by Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives. As we can see, this liberal commie-pinko group is rubbing our collective noses in the worst of our rankings in order to pry more tax money out of our wallets.
The Republicans, obviously, have their own set of stats and their own faceless front: The Texas Public Policy Foundation (don’t you just love these innocent-sounding groups which try to hide their true agenda?). The TPPF countered: “This report makes for some interesting trivia, but if Texas is such a horrible place, why have 4.5 million people moved here in the last decade?” The group added that “what people care most about are jobs, and, on that measurement, Texas ranks first.”
On the other hand, former First Lady Barbara Bush recently wrote a newspaper op/ed piece pointing out students in Texas currently rank 47th in the nation in literacy, 49th in verbal SAT scores and 46th in math scores. “In light of these statistics, can we afford to cut the number of teachers, increase class sizes, eliminate scholarships for underprivileged students and close several community colleges?” That’s not very Tea Party of Bar.
Texas is the Number 1 recipient of Dept. of Defense money. We have 17 military installations in Texas, second only to California, including Fort Hood – the largest military installation in the Free World. Texas is host to the most active duty military personnel in the country and Texas ranks second in the Dept. of Defense’s civilian workforce. It’s about time we got military help: Texas had the nation’s longest-running war with the Indians – nearly 50 years – longer than any other state.
Moving on (slowly), Dallas-Ft. Worth and Houston were ranked fifth and sixth
respectively among the 15 largest metropolitan cities in the yearly number of hours delayed in traffic. Texas leads the nation in the sale of pickup trucks — about one in four of our vehicles. No one seems to count gun racks but no doubt we lead there, too.
We are first in cattle, cotton, mohair from angora goats, pecans and cabbages. Maybe this is because we are tops in farm subsidies. Example: from 1995 to 2009 the McNutt Bros. Dairy in Dublin received $13,684,324. Texas is first in the manufacture of computers and electronic equipment. And we’re the nation’s leader in the manufacture of chemicals, including sulfuric acid. Minnesota may like to call itself the Land of Lakes, but Texas is second, behind Alaska, in surface water.
Texas has 50,189 bridges, about 40 percent more than any other state. Per capita state spending on state arts agencies is 43rd. This is good news. For years we were 54th, behind the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Marianas and Guam, with 21 cents spent per Texan per year. Texas has more official historical markers than any other state — currently 15,416. That’s almost six to one over any other state. In head count, we are second in Hispanics, third in Asians and 11th in Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders. Beaumont ISD Superintendent Carol A. Thomas makes $346,778 a year, ranking Thomas Number 1 in Texas, but not in the nation.
Looking at all these rankings, it’s not bad being at least 49th. This lets us feel superior. That’s why God created Oklahoma.
Ashby is 50th at firstname.lastname@example.org