Marilyn Tennissen Jan. 22, 2013, 11:27am

Texas businesses have a hard time filling job vacancies because applicants don’t have basic academic skills, according to the state’s largest business lobbying group.

Bill Hammond, director of the Texas Association of Business, testified recently in the ongoing trial in Austin over the Texas school funding system. TAB and others have argued that more state money into public schools won’t help students because the entire funding system is not efficient.

“This is very widespread,” Hammond said Jan. 17, according to The Associated Press. “Texas businesses are unable to hire enough workers, which hurts their productivity and diminishes their profits.”

More than 600 school districts in Texas have sued the state, claiming that budget cuts have made education funding so inequitable and inadequate that it is in violation of the Texas Constitution. A trial began in October in the Austin courtroom of U.S. District Judge John Dietz.

Hammond told the court that according to statistics from the Texas Education Agency, only 25 percent of Texas high school graduates are career or college-ready. Unless the quality of learning changes, Hammond said, businesses could end up leaving the state if they can’t find adequately prepared applicants.

“This is a looming crisis because of our aging workforce,” Hammond said. “... We will lose our tax base; we will lose our future. It would be devastating.”

The TAB has been in favor of making standard testing of students more difficult to ensure they are adequately prepared.

Another expert witness testifying last week agreed that more spending does not necessarily mean better student performance.

Eric Hanushek, an education expert from Stanford University, said the real problem with Texas public schools is a lack of efficiency. Resources are being wasted, he said, because the state spends money “on things that don’t matter.”

“If we simply put more resources into schools and use it the way districts have been using it … we should not expect a higher achievement from students on average,” Hanushek said, according to a Jan. 17 story by The Associated Press.

Hanushek said that good teachers are the best predictor of student success. Teachers should be paid based on their effectiveness, he said, and suggested replacing the bottom 5 percent of teachers and giving raises to the best teachers.

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