Friday, June 03, 2005

Creating an Opportunity Society

TYL has previously endorsed the creation of an “Opportunity Society” based on the conviction that every American deserves a real chance to lift him or herself up. I propose we take the first step towards the creation of this new society by overhauling the funding of our nation’s primary and secondary educational systems.

Because states rely heavily on local property taxes to fund education there is one truth to education in America: there are funding gaps between poor and wealthy districts across America. A 1997 GAO report found that there were funding disparities, even when taking into account geographic and student need-related education costs, within all states.

As a result of funding gaps, students in some districts often attend overcrowded, underfunded schools offering a woefully inadequate education. It is time that society corrects this injustice and ensures that every student in America’s schools has the opportunity to obtain a quality education.

As the GAO report found:
Children who come from poor families or live in poor communities often have low levels of academic achievement and high dropout rates. In addition, poor communities often lack the tax base to provide sufficient funding for education programs, even when they tax themselves at high rates.

America needs to end the reliance on local property taxes to fund education. All existing property tax operating levies for school purposes should be repealed and replaced with either (1) a state-wide property tax or (2) an increase in other state taxes (personal and corporate income and/or sales) to ensure a basic funding level for all of our nation’s children.


At 6:15 PM, Blogger Alan Stewart Carl said...

In adition to changing funding methods, which is hugely important, I would also include increasing teacher accountability and performance-based awards. We need to make sure poor teachers are removed but, even more importantly, we need to make sure good teachers are rewarded and those who would make good teachers have the incentives necessary to get them to join the profession.

At 11:44 AM, Blogger DSmith said...

And since there are large income differences between states, we must move all these taxes to the Federal level so we can equalize opportunities across states. And then of course we will need to put the Feds in charge of all this so that they can ensure that all schools do, indeed, turn out children that get the same, above-average, test scores. It's only fair.

At 3:25 PM, Blogger Joe Weedon said...

First, on the income differences between states -- you're right there will be differences and federal involvement may be necessary. But, I don’t think it will be. Each state should be given an opportunity to establish what it thinks is its appropriate level of funding for education. It doesn't cost the same to hire a teacher in NYC as it does in Clifton, Illinois or San Antonio, Texas. Thus, variances in funding across states would be acceptable. If a state doesn’t adequately invest in education, you would expect to see, eventually, Congress or the Courts step in and mandate an increase in education dollars. If a state fails to properly educate its children, you’d also see businesses leave the region in pursuit of a better educated workforce; providing further incentive for states to increase education expenditures.

Second, as for test scores, check back in a few days. I don’t believe we should have tests measuring how students perform based on arbitrary (and somewhat meaningless) national standards. Students and schools should be measured on performance. I propose (and will do so more fully in a post in a day or two after I complete writing it) that we follow the model developed in Utah where students are tested not on what they know, but what they’ve learned over the course of a year.


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