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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Tax Reform and Public Education

Financing education off of a property tax is among the worst tax policies we live with in New York and elsewhere. Families living next door to each other in identical homes may have widely disparate incomes; yet, they pay the same amount to support their public schools. Property taxes are unfair on a number of levels. In communities with meager tax bases, local public schools tend to be resource starved, although they often are charged with educating the neediest students. While most of the politicians I’ve spoken to over my years as a teacher union leader recognize this, just about none of them was willing to attempt to lead the way towards a more progressive way of financing public education.

Dependent, therefore, on the property tax to finance our schools for the foreseeable future, the tax reform talk coming out of Washington should be of concern to supporters of public education. Among the proposals being discussed by the Trump administration is an end the deductibility of state and local taxes from federal tax returns. In high tax states like New York and California, such a move would throw gasoline on the ever smoldering fires of property tax rebellion and create irresistible pressures to hold the line on property taxes beyond the two percent tax cap we already have on such taxes in New York or Prop 13 mandates in California. While efforts to end these deductions have failed in the past, with Republicans in control of all branches of the federal government, and with the impact of repeal of these deductions falling disproportionately on higher tax blue states, repeal would seem to have a much better chance this time around.

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