Saturday, September 18, 2004

On Education, Part II: The Problem

As suggested in a comment to my last post, many people wonder if "throwing more money" at the schools will fix them. I do not advocate this approach. While I do think that society invests its dollars best when it invests them in its future (I.e. children), obviously there are expenses today that must be met.

But that's not what this post is about. This post aims to address a major cause of inequality in public education: property taxes and arbitrary school district lines.

Many states - Texas included - still fund their schools predominantly through local property taxes. If you live within a certain school district or community, your property (usually home) is taxed to pay for local expenses such as schools, while the state provides a very small percentage of additional funds. This system - endorsed by people who want maximized "local control" and who want their schools to be the best - allows for wealthy communities to draw arbitrary lines around their communities, keeping highly valued property in and poorer communities - and their just as deserving children - out.

The result: people in the nice part of town go to nice schools, while people in the crappy part of town go to crappy schools.

Thus, the biggest problem isn't a lack of money in the system (don't get me wrong, that is still a problem), but it is where that money comes from. By saying that local communities can pay for schools, state law knowing endorses inequality. Not only is this unconstitutional, it is also morally deplorable.

It's like this. A University says that any of its students can play a sport, ranging in profitability from football to women's soccer, with only one catch: sports will only have the resources available which they can bring in. Football, which everyone knows will get a ton of money before the policy is in place, flourishes, while women's soccer is forced to disband - no one cares about it except those that want to play. Is this fair?

Now lets add another dimension: say the University mandates that every student play a sport (much like the law mandates that every child go to school). Think about it: aren't their second class citizens here?


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