Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Statewide Porperty Tax for Education?

Tackling the issues of how public education in the state should be funded, the state's Comptroller John Morgan has drafted a plan which he submitted to state officials late last month. Changes would create a statewide property tax and over 60 counties would pay more than half of their sales tax collections for the program (or increase sales taxes in their county), the remaining counties would pay only half - all part of a formula aimed at increasing dollars for education and increasing graduation rates -- sounds like a noble effort.

Local school boards would still decide how to spend the dollars and that begs several questions - if local policy has not been able to keep students enrolled until they graduate, will more tax dollars fix the problem? Each system currently creates their own funding priorities, don't they? Have their decisions been adequate for each system and how is their effectiveness reviewed? Will increased taxation bring higher grad rates?

Some quotes from the story mentioned above from the Memphis Commercial Appeal:

Local property taxes in many places could be significantly reduced if the state were funding operations. Some people would pay less; most would pay more probably since total funding would move closer to what other states spend," said Morgan. "As a state, we would still be way below the (Southern regional) average tax burden under any plausible scenario."

And some statistics:

In Tennessee, only 59 out of 100 ninth-graders go on to graduate from high school. Only 36 will enter college. And only 15 will graduate from college.

In the best-performing states, 91 out of 100 ninth-graders go on to graduate high school, 62 enter college and 28 get a degree.

Morgan said that data, combined with a 2005 National Association of Manufacturers survey that 80 percent of manufacturers have difficulty finding skilled workers, tell the story.

Morgan says part of the reason for submitting this report was to create public discussion about education in the state.

I've had this question on my mind for some time - do Tennesseans place a value on education? Is education simply a training guide for employment? Given the state's wide ranging unemployment figures, from 4 to 14 percent or higher, what happens when we have a 91 percent rate of high school grads? A higher number of college grads? Is manufacturing the only way to judge economic health?

It appears to me the state is utterly stagnant in education policies that foster commitment to the process of education. The federal education policies also seem inadequate, given the number of years the Dept. of Education has had to tackle these issues.

Voters are given the job of reviewing the effectiveness of school boards (but not superintendents) and they seem completely disinterested in most cases, and new residents to the state often look for work in areas where school funding is highest in hopes that will insure a solid education for their kids.

Is the solution just more money?


  1. It seems the answer is always more money except when I need more money then the answer is to cut back my spending.

  2. In an era when the best and brightest of university professors are villified as being culturally elite upstarts, it is no wonder that the state of Tennessee would have a problem with its graduation rates. So many Tennesseans view Education as an institution that causes folks to get above their raising and not as means to pull themselves out of a perpetual state of poverty. For goodness sake, we're still wrangling over the viability of teaching evolution in the public schools. Throwing money at the school system might solve some problems (bringing in better teachers, offering computer labs, repairing older buildings), but it will never force residents to become involved in the educational process.

    Until parents become hands-on involved, the problem is going to continue. And given that so many in Tennessee are so woefully undereducated themselves, the motivation to become involved in their own children's education is a long time coming.

  3. Editor, I agree. Parents make a world of difference in a child's perception of education. Money, however will only help if educators get to choose how to spend it. We have two computer labs with 25 computers each, and I have seven in my classroom. What I don't have is enough text books. I have seven computers in my classroom and I use a "smartboard". What I don't have (and am not allowed to purchase with school funds) is new printer cartridges to make reinforcement tools. When the school board decides how the money will be spent it becomes a dog and pony show. We get new technologies that look great but not the tools (nor staff) to help implement them. Why hire more tech staff when the seven assistants to the superintendent and myriad of other central office cronies need a new BMW?