A Teachable Moment

Former local teacher union pesident Morty Rosenfeld periodically attempts to make sense of the increasingly senseless world of public education.

Tax Bill a Shot at Public Education

I’ve seen little in the criticism of the Republican’s legislation to redistribute income to the wealthiest Americans about the threat it poses to the financing of public education. Limiting the deductibility of state and local taxes and mortgage interest payments will have a profoundly negative effect on the ability of school districts to raise the revenue necessary to maintain quality. Under the current federal tax law, there has been a growing reluctance of people to shoulder an ever growing property tax burden leading to support for property tax caps in states like New York and California.

The deductibility of state and local taxes and mortgage interest has been part of a conscious federal effort to encourage home ownership. Had these policies not been put in place, our suburbs would undoubtedly look very different than they do today. Removing these inducement to home ownership will not only make the already difficult job of financing public education in our suburbs more difficult, it will probably also slow or end the appreciation of real estate in suburban communities, further enraging homeowners as the equity in their houses fails to meet their expectations.

There is no doubt about it. This so-called tax reform redistributes income upwards while it takes a retributive shot at blue states that support public education and quality government services.

I’m off to California for a few says. I’ll be back here on the 27th.

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A New Trend From California?

Other than to sigh with relief that President Obama was re-elected and the U.S. Senate will remain in control of the Dems and even tilt a bit to the left, I’ll leave the analysis of results to others for a while. My interest this morning, as I take up post-Sandi blogging, is on the California story of Proposition 30, a proposal to raise sales and income taxes to fund the public schools, and what it may mean for the rest of the country.

In a very real way, the tax revolt, like so many trends in modern America, began in California with the passage of Prop 13. This initiative was passed at a time when California had the undisputed number one systems of public k-12 education and public colleges and universities. It wasn’t long after the passage of Prop 13 that the schools of California began to decline, a descent that continues to this day. Proposition 30 was designed to begin to turn that dismal situation around. It calls for a half cent increase in the state sales tax and an income tax increase for those earning over $250,000, all of the revenue to be dedicated to the public schools. Had it not past, districts were facing massive program and staff cuts.

That California voters were willing to increase their taxes in support of their public schools is heartening. The other good news from California was the defeat of Proposition 32 that would have severely curtailed the rights of unions to put money into elections. Had it passed, the work that the California Education Association did in support of the tax increase legislation would never have been possible. With a little luck this good news will begin to move eastwards.

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