Taxes and Education

I’m starting a blog post on this StateImpact entry entitled Proposed Bill Would Increase Number Of Students Eligible For School Vouchers because it triggered a raging debate on my Facebook page. We’ll see if the same happens here.

In the Facebook entry, I commented on the link by saying that this voucher program is starting to look a lot less like a subsidy for poor, public school kids who would like to go to private school and a lot more like a wealth transfer to wealthier families who already send their kids to private school.

This started a debate on just who and what public school tax dollars are for. My awesome wife made a few points, but I took the most significant two as being: 1) Kids cost different amounts to educate; and 2) our tax dollars are paying for an educated public, not for the education of our individual children.

The counter point was along the lines that “you should be allowed to use the money you pay for education to go to the education of your child;” and “in a free country, you should have the freedom to say where the money you pay for education goes.”

I don’t think the counter really counters the first two points. First, we don’t do this in other areas of government. For example, I can’t demand my road dollars go to paving the roads I drive on when the highway department determines that roads I don’t drive on are falling apart.

Second, kids aren’t widgets. Some are harder to educate than others. If Johnny costs $500 to educate, Billy costs $1,500 to educate, we can’t average it out to $1,000 per kid. If Johnny leaves for private school with a $1,000 voucher, then Billy’s school is in a -$500 hole trying to educate him. The dirty little secret is that Johnny’s parents have been subsidizing Billy’s education with their tax dollars. But, this isn’t really a dirty little secret, because it’s always been very clear that the childless neighbor down the street has been subsidizing both of the kids’ education.

Education is a public good. It’s not an individual entitlement, and we should stop going down the road of treating it like one.

Comments

  1. Kilroy says

    I’ll be paying property taxes for probably 60-70 years of my life, can’t I at least get a break to apply those property taxes towards a certain school for 12 of those years? I have no problem paying for the general public kids the other 48-58 years.

    • Joe says

      So then why doesn’t the childless person down the street get a break for all 70 years?

      Why do I have to pay taxes for people who smoke?

      Or for people who have kids who they can’t support? Why should I pay for their health care or food?

      Why can’t I just opt out of Social Security?

      It’s a slippery slope once you go down the “I only want to pay for what I use/believe in” avenue.

      Myself, I wonder when America shifted from a nation of Americans to a bunch of individuals who think that everyone else is screwing them over.

    • says

      A few years back I figured out for my little Marion county township the per student cost to the average property taxpayer.

      Here’s your 17¢. Hell, with inflation, let’s call it a quarter.

      What? Oh, you want everyone else’s money, too?

        • says

          So divide your property tax bill by the total number of students in your district. That’s the proper amount we should give to parents who want “their” money to follow “their” student.

          In fact it’s a generous offer; some of that tax money goes to buildings and maintenance, after all, and those costs continue whether or not someone’s child attends. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m more than willing to kick in a few extra cents if it means I don’t have to listen to specious, self-serving arguments about it any more.

  2. Ben says

    We see eye to eye completely.

    “Education is a public good. It’s not an individual entitlement, and we should stop going down the road of treating it like one.” is worth a tweet.

  3. Carlito Brigante says

    In the Facebook entry, I commented on the link by saying that this voucher program is starting to look a lot less like a subsidy for poor, public school kids who would like to go to private school and a lot more like a wealth transfer to wealthier families who already send their kids to private school.

    Absolutely correct, Dog. Republicans like vouchers because they subsidize that they are already doing.

  4. Jason266 aka Hoosier Beer Gut says

    Education is a public good. Social Security is a public good. Medicare is a public good. Medicaid is a public good. Having citizens that are, at the very least, sheltered, fed, and educated is good for our society. It keeps the 99% from eating the 1%.

  5. BillyBoy says

    We need an educated public, that’s why it’s so imperative that we increase the availability of vouchers, private schooling and home schooling, as these avenues produce better educated citizens than public schools.

      • Stuart Swenson says

        Not sure exactly what Amy meant by “this”, but I suspect that she is is responding to BillyBoy who is restating some ideological talking points, hoping that people will agree with him and think they are true, too. The use of vouchers, private schools or home schooling, per se, does not mean that you necessarily have better educated people. Much more complicated than that. Lots of research shows that well-financed schools supported by stable parents who strongly carry out the values of education produce an educated public prepared to be citizens.

        • BillyBoy says

          Joe, know well thy station and dare not think thyself fit to opine on the rations that the bountiful, through charity’s sake, feed you.

          • Joe says

            It’s rather cute that you’re going after a guy who gladly pays his taxes for public schools he doesn’t use because he understands that we are all better off the better-educated the populace is.

            And, oh, I don’t use those tax dollars because I am making making the sacrifices needed so my kids can have a private school education. Just like my parents did for me.

            So we’ve probably got more in common than you’d think. But thanks all the same for the high-and-mightyness.

            • BillyBoy says

              Joe, you insult me whilst being uncontaminated by proper syntax, and you cast yourself in a victim’s role? If you’re going to start a fight, at least stay in it for a round.

              • Joe says

                I’ve been commenting on this blog for years. Please. You’re not debating, you’re trolling and have moved on to wanting to argue about individual words. I’m not playing the wordsmith game.

                It’s pretty obvious from your comments that you support expanding vouchers, also obvious from mine that I do not. If you’d like to debate that, be my guest.

                Oh – and in interest of full disclosure, under HB 1003, I would now qualify for vouchers. Feel free to share about how they impact you personally.

                ps: When I am not happy about a tax, I figure out how my elected representative voted and vote differently the next time. America, got to love it.

              • Joe says

                I will point out that after further reading about HB 1003, I would not qualify for vouchers. I mis-understood the changes to the income and attendance requirements.

  6. jharp says

    “The counter point was along the lines that “you should be allowed to use the money you pay for education to go to the education of your child;” and “in a free country, you should have the freedom to say where the money you pay for education goes.” ”

    In other words, us conservatives must continue to preserve the unearned privilege our children have over those less fortunate no matter how many poor children have to do without.

    I strongly disagree with both counter points. Strongly. And the oddest thing is that the state of Kentucky does it right. An even distribution of tax dollars on a per student basis.

  7. Stuart Swenson says

    While I am not a legal guy, after checking the Indiana Constitution, in the first paragraph, I see that it provides for “a general and uniform system of Common Schools”. I’ve read this paragraph a number of times, and I cannot find anything that says the state should finance vouchers, private schools or home schools. If someone wants to exercise their liberty to make that happen, I guess they can do that, but that first paragraph clearly communicates the purpose of Common Schools is to serve the common good. This is the route the writers chose to develop citizens who will participate intelligently in the democratic experiment. It’s not about me, my personal ideology or my wish to personally allocate my taxes, but about preparing citizens.

    • Clem says

      Neither can you find in the requirement to create “common schools,” an imperative to fund doctoral programs in particle physics. Your argument compels Indiana University to cancel its more ambitious and venerable avenues of enquiry.

      • Stuart Swenson says

        I should have completed that quote: “…a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all.” That means K-12. No Indiana University doctoral program is “without charge, and equally open to all”, nor is it fully funded by the state.

          • Stuart Swenson says

            Common schools evolved more than they were created in Indiana. The people being educated depended on where people lived and when after since the 1852 constitution was drafted, but it’s generally agreed that the first 12 years constitute when common schooling occurs in Indiana. Universities (or seminaries) are not included. The first paragraph of Article 8 clearly states the purpose, which is to serve the common good, not special interests. I think I’ve said enough on that.

            • Clem says

              Pity those schools failed you.

              K-12=13

              Further, “generally agreed” does not a constitution make.

              Further, still, “common” schooling could be accomplished by requiring that all pupils who receive public moneys for schooling, public students, voucher recipients, etc., must receive X hours of instruction in Math, English, History, Rhetoric, Composition and Science. There are multiple levels of extrapolation at which we could find commonality.

  8. Stuart Swenson says

    Correction: The statement “a general and uniform system of Common Schools” is in the first paragraph (Section 1) of Article 8 – Education.

  9. Teutonic says

    Can we agree that we spend a lot of money on education? Yes. Ok then lets take the money we are spending and concentrate it on education. Drop all extra curricular activites from the schools and concentrate on Education. How much money is spent on putting artificial turf on a high school football field, not to mention the maintenace costs of the baseball diamonds, soccer fields, tennis courts and running tracks. How much is spent on instruments, auditoriums with high end sound systems? How much does it cost to have Gymnasiums? IF this is truly about educating our kids with public money then educate them and drop the rest.

    • Clem says

      Good points, Teutonic, but the public “education” institutions will never educate the young as long as the most incompetent and illegitimate college “graduates” are the only ones allowed access to the lectern.

      Until we allow all college graduates, not merely the embarrassingly unqualified and undereducated “Education” majors to sit for the teacher’s examination, our public schools will continue to do anything but educate, and the portion of our country forced to suffer under public education will get progressively dumber. Their ignorance will, however, be hidden behind an utterly unproductive zealous secular religious belief in global warming, recycling, “tolerance”, self esteem and gender equality, though they’ll be flummoxed to read a map or add a column of numbers.

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