I hardly ever agree with the GOP on anything, but a new education reform proposal might change my tune … just this one time.
Pennsylvania Senate Republicans plan to vote next week on a proposal that would terminate property taxes as a means of school funding and substitute them with increases in the sales and personal income taxes of locals.
“The only solution is to eliminate them,” Republican Sen. David Argall told the press this week in regards to not reforming property taxes. “It's based on, how big is your house? When did you buy it? How big is your lot? Did you remember to paint your door last year? I mean, that's crazy.”
Argall launched the proposal and has the bipartisan backing of some Democrats. Even if this doesn’t go through, it’s currently more promising than the current $30 billion budget deal Governor Wolf and Republicans flaunted last week. Details suggest that it will include a hike in the state sales tax and personal income tax, revisions to the liquor and pension systems, and a cut in property taxes.
Let’s just cut to the chase. Property taxes have and forever will be a visible sign of the haves and have-nots. The more you pay, the more you have and that shouldn’t be the case when it comes to supporting our public schools.
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It’s simple. If you believe that public education should be a resource that every child in this state should be entitled to have sufficiently — then you should be willing to support a fair and equal funding for it.
The current model of property taxes funding our schools is inherently discriminatory and elitist. We know that housing discrimination exists and that the disproportion of wealth in our state is not diverse and/or distributed adequately.
“Good” and “bad” schools in American aren’t solely defined by the quality of their teachers and programs, but by the zip codes to which they are located. Because the property taxes in rich zip codes pay for the schools in those zip codes and the poorer zip codes must simply struggle with less. And public acceptance of this will continue to set our society and students back continuously.
I don’t mind paying higher taxes for education because I know I won’t be the only one doing it. It’s a sense of fairness in knowing that everyone collectively is contributing to help ALL kids — rather than just their own – get an education that will benefit our society.
Furthermore, such a tax increase, when funneled to schools, could help reduce other statewide problems across the board — including high drop-out rates, unemployment, and possibly petty crime.
If you want to improve the quality of life for our youth, you can’t rely on a funding system that doesn’t give all of them a shot to win.
Philadelphians have paid higher taxes on their cigarettes and liquor without madness ensuing, so why not more to finally help improve our schools?
Because property tax school-funding is another form of “separate but equal,” and our tax-dollars would be better off spent ending that.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Metro US.