There exist mixed feelings among the U.S. citizenry on how public schools in the U.S. should be funded. In most cases, States primarily raise funds to support public schools through property and/or sales taxation. The extent to which respective States rely on either of these forms of taxation differs from State to State, with some relying on one or both. Reliance on either sales or property taxes as a primary source of funding presents related challenges to State governments since both tax forms bear significant shortcomings. However, this paper specifically argues that States such as Georgia, which have property tax as the primary source of funding for education should not shift to the sales tax option. However, in addition to the current system of property taxes, these states should consider a hybrid plan using both property and sales taxes for better education funding.
The Federal government neither governs nor shoulders any official obligation to fund education (Baker, Sciarra and Farrie 6). For this reason, it normally contributes about 7% of the total education budget, the rest of which is raised by respective States (Johnson 2). While the national constitution does not clearly state the need for public schools, State constitutions require the provision of equal, adequate, or efficient public schools. Therefore, different States have developed different mechanisms for financing public schools such that the requirements on equality, adequacy, and efficiency, are met.
Methods for public education funding in the U.S differ from State to State. These methods are usually complex and dependent on a wide range of factors. Normally, funding exists in the form of basic funding, power equalization funding, optional local funding, and categorical funding. The modalities on which these forms of funding are raised is complicated and in some cases unreliable. Additionally, due to economic inequalities between different States, standardizing funding becomes a challenge. Therefore, the quality of education offered in respective States is highly dependent on their economic ability.
In counties, such Georgia, where poverty levels are relatively high, State funding is insufficient in funding public education. According to Johnson (1), Georgia is the sixth poorest State in the U.S. This has been attributed to child care shortages, reduced early education opportunities, reduced affordable and quality education opportunities, and a poor public transport system. It is important to note that a poor education system is to blame for the high poverty levels. Additionally, the 2012 population survey data revealed that about 6.5 million people in Georgia lived in suburban areas, with about 1 million of them wallowing in poverty (Johnson 5). It has also been observed that the levels of poverty in suburban areas are on the rise.
There exists a relationship between population demographics, tax policy, government revenue, and education funding. Georgias government relies primarily on property tax to fund public education. Moreover, it is largely the only tax used for education in the State, that is, only ten counties are allowed to use sales taxes to fund schools. Howell and Miller (42) note that the reliance on property taxes as the primary source of education funding has resulted in huge inequities in local tax rates and per-pupil funding. In States where the majority of the people live in rural settings, property tax is usually the primary form of obtaining school funding. However, while Georgia, which uses this model, is expected to raise huge funds, the opposite is usually realized because the higher the poverty levels, the more the government gives tax rebates, exemptions, and deferrals for property tax (Sielke 10). Therefore, despite having a huge size of taxable households, high poverty levels reduce the actual amount of the collected property tax, hence reduced education funding.
In essence, states such as Georgia are trapped in the vicious cycle of poverty, where poverty leads to reduced property tax and subsequently poor education funding. Similarly, poor education funding limits access to quality education and poor education levels; hence, there is continued social stagnation and poverty. To break this cycle, these poor States must implement radical measures to increase education funding. Introducing sales tax would be a good measure since it yields significant revenues at a faster rate than property tax. However, the States should not eliminate property tax because it is more stable compared to sales tax. For this reason, property tax would ensure the security of adequate funding in times of sales tax fluctuations. Therefore, such a hybrid system would ensure better education funding and increased access to higher quality education.
In conclusion, one would argue that imposing additional taxation on an already poor population would have negative economic outcomes. However, it is important to note that in the current property tax system, taxation rates vary widely and are largely unfair. This is because the poor enjoy more tax reliefs than the middle and upper-class citizens, creating notions or a feeling of unfairness. Introducing sales tax would ensure each member of society contributes to the betterment of the education system. Besides, the sales tax could be limited to luxury goods to avoid increased suffering for those who are extremely poor while ensuring more revenues and better funding for schools. Simply put, States such as Georgia must reconsider their education funding policy for progress to be realized. The poor education statistics in such States is worrying, and in the absence of government efforts to raise the standards, their societies must take collective responsibility to ensure the betterment of education for the sake of their children and that of generations to come.
Baker, Bruce D, David G Sciarra and Danielle Farrie. Is school funding fair? A national report card. Newark, NJ: Education Law Center, 2010.
Howell, Penny L and Barbara B Miller. "Sources of funding for schools." The Future of Children: Financing Schools 7.3 (1997): 39-50.
Johnson, Melissa. Recovery or bust: Georgia's poor left behind. Policy Report. Atlanta, GA: Georgia Budget and Policy Institute (GBPI), 2013.
Sielke, Catherine C. Georgia. University of Georgia. Munchie, IN: Ball State University, 2015.
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