Sunday, November 13, 2011
Providing a Quality Public Education Isn't Optional
I like Mr. Smith, but he is so wrong. Naturally, I decided to persuade him of his error in thought. It didn't work, but I put up a hell of a persuasive argument.
An educated populace benefits the growth of the society. We pay taxes to maintain the whole of society. No taxes, then no roads, law enforcement, traffic signals, public buildings, fire departments--the list is lengthy. We don't get to choose where our taxes are spent. I've never been arrested nor a victim of a crime, if I follow Mr. Smith's line of thought, I should not have to support law enforcement. If one lives in society then one must support the functioning of that society. Not wanting your taxes to support education because you don't have any children is a libertarian notion whether one likes that label or not. Btw, I don't have any children either.
We pay for educating all children so that there will be a competent workforce to maintain the infrastructure that promotes the functioning of society. We pay for educating all children because poverty and marginalization are engendered by the lack of an education. We pay for educating all children because the mind needs nurturing as much as does the body.
Mr. Smith argues that if your child attends a private school, you also should be spared from paying taxes to support public education. However, no one has to pay taxes and private school education. It's a choice you make and it doesn't mean that you get to abdicate your responsibility to pay local taxes.
Generally, property and some sales taxes go to paying for public education, which is financed primarily by the individual states. Federal funding goes to Title 1 programs for children from low-wealth families, the free and reduced price lunch program, and to support some of the programs for children with disabilities who are identified as such under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or IDEA.
The voucher movement bases its premise on the notion that they should receive vouchers equivalent to the Per Pupil Expenditure (PPE) that a state spends to educate students. The theory behind it is that the parents pay taxes but their children don't attend public school so they should get their money back in the form of vouchers. The amount of the vouchers would actually exceed the amount paid in taxes as education funding is provided not only from the money collected from property taxes and sales tax. Corporate taxes, fines collected in court cases, parking fines, and revenues from other sources all go into the state general fund, which in turn funds public education in that state.
PPE for the states ranges from a low of $6,000 in Utah to a high of $15,000 in Vermont in the most recent comparison of 50 states and the District of Columbia from the EPE Research Center's Education Counts Database. The national average for PPE is just under $10,000. Those who support vouchers are asking to be paid amounts equal to the PPE in their state because they don't believe that they should have to support public education as their darlings aren't in public school.
There are constant complaints on Facebook and in general about the lack of comprehension on the part of the American public when it comes to politics and government. Knowledge of core civics is so poor that there were folks on FB who questioned why President Obama didn't just pardon Troy Davis, who was convicted in a state court of committing murder in violation of state law. Such a pardon is not within the powers of the office of the President. Compared to other comparable countries and some that we consider far less developed than the U.S., our students show mediocre performance in math and science, and notoriously score poorly on standardized tests in U.S. History. (Test your knowledge of U.S. History by answering questions from the tests administered to students in grades 4, 8, and 12.)
Our public education system needs to be improved and held accountable. Check the education levels of any state prison and you will find a disproportionate number of inmates who never graduated from high school. Federal prisons are a bit different as they are filled with white collar criminals who have degrees but lack ethics. We continue to allow massive numbers of students to crash land between the cracks at our own peril. I'd prefer to have my taxes go to support public education; in the long run it's less costly than continuing to pay to maintain prisons (which also are supported with our taxes). We pay to support public education because we know that a poorly educated populace will be a future drain on the society rather than functional contributors to the growth and well-being of society. Providing a quality public education for every child benefits all members of society. (See, The Effect of Education on Crime, October 2003.)
We cannot afford to entertain the notion that some of us are less responsible than others for contributing financial support to public education. It's both shortsighted and selfish.