How do we fund public education?
What does location, location, location mean?
The closer one lives to main hubs or urban centers the
higher the cost of property. Apartments/Houses/Commercial Buildings cost a
considerable more amount of money in New York rather than Nebraska, because New
York is host to the economic bloodline of our country; Wall Street.
Do richer cities have better public education?
So New York must have the best public schools?
Not exactly. There are some good schools in areas like
Manhattan or Long Island, but there are also areas such as the Bronx or Harlem,
where, despite gentrification, harbor low income districts with low property
tax revenues. Schools in these areas where minority populations are the
highest, suffer as a result of our current funding system. Even though they pay
their fare of taxes, there is just simply not enough money generated to compete
with richer communities, of whom, in some areas, receive an equal amount of
state support. As time goes on, these troubling communities without state and
federal financial assistance, undergo severe educational de-development and decay.
The question is how do we as a country provide a standard form of public
education that is globally competitive. Harvard will always be Harvard, but how
does the city of Cambridge in Massachusetts compete with Oxford in England.
So how does a wealthy community pay for their public
education? What do they do differently. “The wealthy in one district can
confine their expenditures to their own children and those other families of
similar wealth who are paying equally. The less wealthy in a neighboring district
are left to finance their own children’s education, with a reduced set of
resources. If their resources are very small, then their children’s education
is very poorly financed.” (Sugarman ix)
Are wealthy communities motivated to help ameliorate the
achievement gap between the rich and the poor. “It appears likely that if the
upper middle class suburbs cease to be semi private school refuge for families
with money, they will resort to a final strategy—moving their children to
private school.” (Sugarman xiii) [Braintree]
With tuition vouchers each family has equal potential for
obtaining its child’s education, on an open market. Educational opportunity is
primarily a problem of racial segregation. For inequalities of education,
integration has been the liberal’s patent medicine. However, today, even
integrated schools along with segregated schools, fall short in meeting the
expectations outlined by state achievement tests. And in the absence of good
public schools, vouchers, charter schools, private schools, and home schooling
have become the competitive alternative. Where are parents to look to in order
to ensure their children receive a quality education, especially those who are
struggling to make ends meet.
Thurgood Marshall has reiterated this concern about
education: “Not only will quality education for all children not be guaranteed
by integration, but there is danger that a holy war with this single objective
will produce a Pyrrhic victory by neglecting and obscuring other important
forms of discrimination in education against both white and black.” (Sugarman
Politicians maintain this landscape of poverty and wealth by
gerrymandering and carpetbagging, volatile districts many times riddled with
crime and debauchery succumb to power hungry politicians. This is what leads to
what we have already illustrated with contrasting communities in New York,
Manhattan v. Bronx. A top notch education within 10 miles of the poorest
schools in the nation.
Private Wealth and Public Education
take a look at a numerous amount of states in
their analysis of the American Public Education, they include: Ohio, Nevada,
Utah, Arizona, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Delaware,
Hawaii, North Carolina, Rhode Island, New York, Maine, Wisconsin.
So do we just give underperforming schools money in order to
turn things around, can we be sure that effective budgets are drawn and the
management of funds are rightly allocated. How do we assess improvement, what
does it mean when we say that a school is showing “effort”?
It is the effort factor that is most likely to be adjusted
when limitations are considered. In 2002, NCLB and high stakes tests for poor
schools was a measure of the effort (raw numerical scores) of “underperforming
schools” however many of the incentives could not be met. This was due to an
assortment of things like dwindling state budgets, and conflicting ideology
with regard to distribution of wealth and entitlements and earmarks. Sugarman
and associates offer a plethora of solutions, one of them includes states to
impose a spending floor which would support districts that simply cannot come
up with the resources income and property taxes included, in comparison to
“The problems of potential mismeasurement of effort are more
practical than theoretical, and they seem to be at least threefold. First is
the problem of incidence, second the problem of local source to total local
wealth, third marginal utility.”
incidence- a district may be able to pass on the
tax it levies to outsiders, both distorting our perception of local wealth and
disrupting the relation between tax-levy and effort.
The proportion of the local source to local
wealth where real property may represent a higher proportion of total local wealth
in poor districts than in rich districts. A poor man is trying two and a half
times as hard to make ends meet and compete with wealthier districts.
Marginal utility – a problem of the poor because
it is their limited income and fixed needs that make any proportion of wealth
put toward education more difficult to surrender. The Cost is not simply the
worth of money but more
“principle must yield to pragmatism if power equalizing is
to be more than an academic exercise.” (Sugarman 222)
Some economic theory in the University of Texas Bake Sale:
“Use tax is normally collected by the merchant making a
sale; but for our purposes he would have to change different rates to different
purchasers based upon the rules in their districts.” “The use tax may well be
regressive, although with elimination of food from the base it is perhaps
proportional. It tends to measure consumption instead of income; and the poor,
in an economic sense, have a greater propensity to consume (rather than save)
than do the rich.” (Sugarman 224) The University of Texas charged people
differently according to there race, which was designed to poke fun of
progressive taxes, taxing people differently based on there collective income.
As a group minorities make less money that their white counterparts, so such a
tax is plausible but what the University of Texas does not get is that those
“affirmative action” admissions, are seeking a universal right to all
individuals, a sufficient public education, not a silly cinnnabon.
“in the 1800s education [was] beneficial to the whole
community, so that taxes for it should be borne by the whole community.”
Sugarman and associates agree that decentralization is the
“Power equalizing, being a system of local finance, permits
this saving in the form of lower local taxes; but in-efficient communities can
export some of the cost in the form of state taxes (just as some of the
efficiency saves state taxes). Actually, power equalizing is not special in
this regard because any state aid at all raises the same problem; and a
centralized system spreads the inefficiency to a greater degree.” (Sugarman
Where as “ a centralized system of public education financed
by a tax proportional on income would be considered “fair” in most quarters;
but even under such a system, because of marginal utilities, the poor would be
hurt more than the rich by their proportional contribution to education. School
children could only be injured equally, however, because of the statewide
nature of the spending program.” (Sugarman 242)
“Only after fiscal equity is achieved can we embark upon the
turbulent waters of de facto segregation, whether by race or social class, and
feel confidence in judging its educational consequences. This is not a canard
of reaction; if change comes, it will come through judicial prompting and it
will come in this generation. We are not talking about the year 2000. Nor are
we suggesting that decisions on priorities be suspended or programs postponed.
The point is, simply, that fiscal rationality may contribute more to
understanding the nature of our problem than any single reform.” (Sugarman
250-251) This book was published in the 70s when segregation was more rampant.
However the need to equalize opportunities among those of different races and
social class still is a present issue that must be addressed.
So who is going to pay for the improvement?
“All levels of government would be functioning in a fashion
emphasizing at once both national community and local variety. There would be
only one conceivable step beyond: a speculative form of fiscal equity that we
call family power equalizing.” (Sugarman 256)
“The current commotion over decentralization of school
systems is a complex phenomenon on which we essay no firm conclusion except
that it bids fair to be part of the educational scene for the foreseeable
future.” (Sugarman 268) In 2013, in the midst of such affirmative action cases
such as the one occurring at the University of Texas, deserves attention, especially
as we as a nation are defining the aspects of a “Great Society”.
democrats v. republicans, Still a partisan issue
“Political power and alliances will shape the program. The
distribution of that power will differ from state to state and district to
district; yet, some common elements and a patterned overall response are to be
expected.” (Sugarman 273) Republicans will favor vouchers, charter schools,
free market and decentralization State rights), Democrats will favor
progressive taxes, minority scholarships, consolidation and centralization
(federalization). Hopefully both parties and the community at large will found
common ground and reach key priorities.
Will a decision from the courts in the University of Texas
case make a difference in our national debate on education?
“the best service the court can perform is fourfold: (1)
break the logjam of the status quo and thus free the state from a politically
immovable system; (2) give the state wide latitude in its re-examination of the
finance problem; (3) speak with clarity in a standard capable of intelligent
interpretation; (4) remain keenly sensitive to the likely legislative and
popular responses to the various forms its decisions and orders might take.”
“Equality is a relation, not a thing; it is either form in
the Platonic idiom nor is it
of any existent thing considered by itself. For an equality to “exist”, two
entities are necessary; it is not truly an aspect of either entity to which it
relates except insofar as it is a property of both. When this is clear there is
no harm in describing one thing as equal to another. All this applies also to
equality only in being infinitely variable. Equality is the unique instance; in
this it resembles an equation for which there is a single correct answer but an
infinity of wrong ones. Of course, this absolute must be immediately defused.
For practical purposes—and especially for constitutional purposes” (Sugarman
“the litigation and literature on the school finance issue
have produced a number of proposed formulations of a Fourteenth Amendment duty
of the state to treat education as a ‘fundamental right’.” (Sugarman 304)
“We are content with a constitutional meaning for equality
of opportunity that can be understood and then can be applied to the grosser
objective aberrations of the existing systems, those springing from state-
created wealth determinants of quality.” (Sugarman 307)
“the courts have neither the knowledge, nor the means, nor
the power to tailor the public moneys to fit the varying needs of these
students throughout the state.” (Sugarman 308)
Amendment for its intended purpose
“Most civilized critics of the court concede the propriety
of applying the equal protection clause in a forceful fashion to racial classifications
because of the special historical purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment. But the
continued extension of judicial protection to other victims of discrimination
leaves many critics upset. Such an approach, they say, imperils the fundamental
aim of reasoned judgment rendered according to neutral principles.” (Sugarman
Class unity? Racial unity? Class and racial unity?
“there are poor districts which are basically Negro, but it
is clear almost by definition that the vast preponderance of such districts is
white. Of course the class injured by the present school financing
discrimination may be defined in many ways.” (Sugarman 357)
Pierce v. Society of Sisters “settled the question of the
Fourteenth Amendment right to satisfy the statutory duty of compulsory
education by attendance at a private school, secular or religious, meeting
appropriate state standards….. Education, like property, cannot be monopolized
by the state.” (Sugarman 401)
“In Abington School District v. Shempp, Mr. Justice Brenan,
concurring, noted: “Americans regard the public schools as a most vital civil
institution for the preservation of a democratic system of government.”
“the issue of financial discrimination between districts, as
we have shown, has literally nothing to do with race.” (Sugarman 403) or does
“It seems, in candor, that in this line of cases the
language of Brown in praise of education stands alone, until the court speaks
again, its role as authority remains inscrutable for our purposes.” (Sugarman
Is education as critical as health care? Should education be
as “universal” as health care?
“Our posture here may suggest that the federal legislation
in aid of education in defined areas of poverty should be held invalid under
the unwritten equal protection clause of the Fifth Amendment.” (Sugarman 426)
The nation is simply not doing enough and the states are denying funds because
of partisan politics. This money has real implications when it is not invested
in the low income communities, and casts a cloud over the American Dream.
Private Wealth and Public Education
Authors John E. Coons, William H. Clune III, Stephen D.
Published by The Belknap Press of Harvard University