Annual Kinder Houston Area Survey Offers Valuable Insights on Public Education 

Perspectives from Houstonians provide insights into navigating current
educational challenges and preparing for the future of Houston.

Every year, the Kinder Houston Area Survey gives us an in depth look into what Houstonians think and feel about their city. This year’s survey revealed critical insights into how residents view our local economy, housing affordability, climate change, artificial intelligence, and education. Good Reason Houston anticipates this report eagerly, as its nuanced findings provide us with another perspective to delve into local viewpoints. From concerns surrounding economic disparities and housing affordability to questions about public school funding, let’s examine how these perspectives could shape the future of education in our city.

Here are our five key takeaways and their implications for public education in Houston:

1. Financial instability is growing, which limits choices and opportunities after graduation. 29% of residents said their financial situation was worse than before, and nearly half of residents said they would be unable to cover an emergency expense of $400.

As more families are income constrained, investments into education become less feasible with more graduates from the region’s public schools opting to pursue work immediately after high school. We’ve seen this trend bear out in our postsecondary analysis, which shows that completion has been largely flat over time for the graduating classes of 2012-2017, particularly for students that are economically disadvantaged.

This shift in families’ financial constraints underscores the need to shift conversations in schools from being “college-ready” to “graduation-ready,” ensuring that all students leave our schools with a high standard of academic achievement and life skill preparation previously preserved for “college ready” graduates. It is critical that K-12, higher education, and industry come together to identify the unique barriers students from low-income families, students of color, and other marginalized students face that hinders their access to all postsecondary opportunities and offer more outlets for those students to secure necessary skills during their K-12 careers.

“Education will remain a critical determinant of who is able to prosper economically, though the importance of a typical college degree may diminish if employers target skills or certifications that can be learned in high school computer science classrooms or through specialized courses untethered to a traditional university.”

2. Living in Houston is increasingly unaffordable and we anticipate a resulting increase in student mobility. Housing affordability tops the list of problems facing the region. This has implications for student mobility– as rental rates, eviction rates, and property values increase many families will become more mobile.

The Houston Education Research Consortium’s student mobility study uncovered a troubling reality: students who undergo multiple school changes during their K-12 journey exhibit lower academic performance and higher dropout rates. In part, this is often attributed to learning gaps resulting from variations in the curricular materials and pacing across schools. With an expected rise in student mobility, particularly among vulnerable populations, the adoption and strong implementation of high-quality curricular materials across districts may be critical to mitigating the learning disruptions experienced by students transitioning between schools.

3. Houstonians support increased funding for public education and there are high leverage ways for funding to be distributed and managed. Houston area residents have unmistakably signaled that public education is critical and must be resourced appropriately.

While Houstonians are largely behind enhanced funding for schools, the ways by which those funds are distributed and managed is a necessary and related conversation to have. We would like to see two things true for districts: an increase to the basic per pupil allotment and mechanisms in place to ensure that funding is utilized in high impact ways on behalf of students. Specific allotments are an important tool to ensure some portion of the overall increased funding is targeted. Two impactful examples of this include the Teacher Incentive Allotment and the Early Education Allotment whereby districts can receive additional funding dedicated to high quality teachers and our littlest learners. 

“In 2024, 70% of residents agreed that schools need more funding.”

4. Houston residents are increasingly aware of racial inequities; educators will need to meet the moment to invest in targeted student support and outreach. This growing awareness of the different experiences individuals have across the city based on their race presents a similar  opportunity for educators to reassess how they are prioritizing resources to highest need neighborhoods, schools, and students.

We encourage districts to double down on their efforts to support disadvantaged student populations through a multifaceted approach. This may include providing additional academic support tailored to the needs of these students, enhancing family and community engagement initiatives to ensure all stakeholders are involved in the educational process, and implementing strategies to address systemic barriers that perpetuate racial inequities. As our city embraces increasing racial diversity, it’s imperative that our education systems proactively strive to foster a more equitable and inclusive educational environment, one that serves the diverse needs of all students.

5. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will fundamentally shift the economy and public education will need to evolve in lock-step. As Houston-area residents recognize the growing demand for new skill sets in response to advancements in technology, automation, robotics, and AI in the workplace, schools will need to adapt their curriculum to meet the moment.

With digital fluency as essential to the success of nearly all members of today’s workforce and the significant leadership role Houston plays in high-tech areas such as the energy economy, technology-related subjects will need to be more fully integrated into every school’s curriculum. The automation of jobs through technological advances also emphasizes the importance of adaptive, durable skills that students can carry through college or career – including critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration. As AI automates routine tasks, the value of uniquely human skills becomes even more pronounced. Therefore, there is a growing need for a curriculum that is interdisciplinary, knowledge-rich, and prioritizes the development of these essential skills. You can read more about our take on the evolving demands of our education system in this report

“While previous forms of automation largely affected blue-collar manufacturing workers over the last century, the next generation of technological change could affect nearly every type of job… this technology has already started impacting jobs across the Houston landscape.”

To learn more about the Kinder Houston Area Survey and see results from past years, click here.

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