A New Way to Fund Schools.

Essays | Julius Olavarria | February 19th, 2023.

There is no doubt that public schools all across the United States are suffering at the hands of a deficient funding system. Property taxes, the main source of school funds, are the issue. Out of all the states known for their education, Florida does an excellent job of demonstrating the problems associated with funding schools based on property taxes. This method, or “formula,” of funding propels United States education in a vicious cycle, perpetuating unequal education across the board. 

According to fl.gov, Florida’s funding for their public schools “...derived almost entirely from property taxes levied by Florida's 67 counties, each of which constitutes a school district.” On a national scale, “some $269 billion, or 82 percent, of local revenues for public school districts were derived from local property taxes” (National Center for Education Statistics). 

This should say a lot. What needs to be generally understood is that local property taxes are local- the surrounding towns, neighborhoods, or cities pay for their schools based on their income. Of course, not everyone makes the same salary. Worse-off towns pay less for their schools based on the property tax formula: their income is less. 

It’s easy to piece together that worse-off towns have worse-off schools because of the screwed-up formula. People make less money, pay less property taxes, and have worse schools, perpetuating a callous yet natural system. 

“Worse-off” is not going far enough. Shifting from Florida: Idaho, which has one of the worst school-funding systems in America, redefines the phrase. According to propublica.org, “The walls were cracked. The pipes were disintegrating. The ceilings were water-stained. The electrical system was maxed out and the insulation was nearly nonexistent. Classrooms froze in the winter and baked in the summer. The roof, part of which had already collapsed once, was nearing the end of its lifespan. Outside, potholes pocked the parking lot and deep splits formed in warped sidewalks. The kindergarten playground, weathered from decades of brutal winters, had turned hazardous; at times, sharp screws protruded from some of the equipment, and kids routinely got splinters from the wooden crossbeams.”

The phrase “worse-off” does not do justice to kids suffering in their learning conditions. These already impoverished kids, going to school from the surrounding neighborhoods, suffer more in their classrooms. From a young age, kindergarteners deal with the poor conditions at their schools, setting the standard for the future. Who would want to be in a place like that? The contempt for their buildings and the school system in general feeds into their contempt for learning. In this way, another vicious cycle is created. 

The American ideal- lifting yourself out of poverty through hard work and educational pursuit- cannot be completed when our schools are like this. Underpaid teachers, unmotivated students, decrepit buildings, and poor learning environments are a product of the funding. The property tax funding system ruins our education and the American dream in one fell swoop. So, what’s the solution?

The easiest, most practical solution to our issue is a collective tax fund. The interesting thing about this solution is that it doesn’t change much. Property taxes will still be used, but not in the oppressive way they are currently. Yes, everyone will still pay property taxes, but instead of local funding for local public schools, collective funding for local schools would be implemented. 

Teachers unions all across the nation still fight for better pay and more funding for their schools. By now it seems obvious: they don’t get funding because their neighborhoods are lower-income. Making a collective tax system, where ALL property taxes will filter into one big chip would eliminate these protests, eliminate the disparity, and would make the future of our nation brighter.

In this collective tax system, all schools will receive EQUAL funds based on ALL the property taxes in the given state. All of the collected property taxes would be distributed evenly- to every public school in the state, each receiving the same amount of funds propelling equal education for all. 

No one should have to suffer to learn. The opportunity to learn, like freedom, should be given at birth. When students have to worry about ceilings caving in they can’t learn. When their classrooms are freezing they can’t learn. When students worry about other things besides their assignments, homework, and tests, their grades drop. Pressure from their teachers and parents increases. They hate school, they hate this situation, and they hate learning all because of the way we choose to fund our schools. We can preserve our American ideals, preserve our future, and help struggling kids by adopting the collective system across the nation.