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About those school taxes you are paying.



By Laura Mayberry

When asked about school choice at Thursday night’s debate, Clay County School Board Chairwoman Johnna McKinnon said that parents’ tax dollars should follow their kids to wherever they choose to send them. While the question centered around charter schools, many conservatives also support voucher programs that extend this choice to private schools as well.

This belief represents a fundamental misunderstanding not only about how taxes work, but about the purpose behind public education.

School districts are partially funded from local property taxes, which means that every citizen in Clay County is helping to fund our public schools. When you give parents a voucher that they can use to send their child to a private or parochial school, you are not just giving them back what they put in. They are getting MORE than what they put in because the cost of schooling has been spread out over all taxpayers. Essentially, vouchers take tax dollars paid by every citizen of that county and funnel them to a small group of parents, who are then funneling them to an even smaller group of churches and private organizations.

School districts are also funded from state level taxes, which means that everyone living in Florida is helping to fund our public schools. Again, allowing parents to direct the full cost of educating their child to a non-public school is allowing them to dictate where more than their “fair share” of taxes gets to be spent.

Public education is not solely for the benefit of parents and their children. Public education is a PUBLIC good that has positive externalities for the entire county/state/nation. When children receive an education, everyone benefits. That is why we make everyone, not just parents, pay taxes to fund public schools. If parents were forced to pay the full cost of educating their children, many could not afford it. You may say “well, that’s their problem” but that is a very short-sighted view. When masses of children are left uneducated or undereducated, it becomes society’s problem. Our communities have a less educated citizenry. Our businesses have less educated workers. There will be even more misspellings to correct in Facebook posts.

This is exactly where we are headed now, as funding for our public schools is being siphoned off to fund charter schools. Tax dollars are being wasted to build new buildings or pay rent for charter schools as some of our public schools sit under capacity. If the public believes that their local public schools are not up to par, then the answer is to properly fund them, not start all over again at a new school. If parents are sending their children to private schools because they don’t like all of the standardized testing that public schools are subject to, then then answer is to change the laws that are handcuffing our public schools. If communities don’t like state mandates, then the answer is to fight for more local control.

To understand how harmful “school choice” really is, let’s draw a parallel using another public good: the military.

What if I don’t like the way the military is run? Can I get a voucher so that my tax dollars go to fund a local militia that better aligns with my beliefs and values? After all, they are MY tax dollars. What would happen to our military if we allowed this to happen? The loss of funding would cripple their ability to do their job. Then more people would want to withdraw their tax dollars because they don’t want to fund an organization that is not working properly. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you don’t like something, simply defund it and then more people will join your cause. Pretty soon our country would be defended by a bunch of independent militias with no coordination or accountability. Richer areas would have better protection, poorer areas with be left with little to none. Crazy, right?


You see, that’s not how taxes work. If you don’t like how they are being spent, you voice your opinion in the voting booth. You don’t get to pick and choose where your individual money goes. We could adopt a system of government where that was the case. Want nice roads? Pay the road fee. Want nice parks to play in? Pay the park fee. Want firefighters to protect you and your property? Pay the firefighter fee. I think we can all see where that would lead. The essence of public goods is that they are things that no one wants to individually pay for but everyone benefits from. Hence, taxes. 

1 comment:

  1. Hard to believe that there are no comments left, as yet. I just discovered this article today from the time this article was published....wow.
    Wake up America... stop filling the pockets of these businesses. Yes, education is a business but publicly funding "charter schools" is like paying to abuse our children.
    I suppose adults aren't so smart after all. :(

    ReplyDelete