Children are suffering in America’s schools, because they need better resources: more technology, more books, more qualified teachers. It’s gotten so bad that the Kansas Supreme Court gave state lawmakers an ultimatum: Make school funding more equitable by June 30, or it will consider shutting down the state’s public schools. Lawmakers followed up with a plan — to make it easier to impeach Supreme Court judges who attempt to “usurp the power” of the Legislature or governor.
This is because state lawmakers don’t want to raise taxes, unless they have public support. Without additional financial resources, class sizes will double, education programs will be cut, and schools in Kansas, Colorado, Oregon, Arizona, Texas, and other states will continue to have basic infrastructure issues. How can a child learn when the school only has 1 working bathroom? How can a child feel valued when the roof has been leaking for 3 years, and can’t afford to be fixed?
So, here are 10 ways you can ask your state legislator or county officials to raise money for education.
1. End Caps on Property Taxes
The majority of education funding comes from Property Taxes. A property tax or millage rate is an ad valorem tax on the value of a property, usually levied on real estate. This can be a national government, a federated state, a county or geographical region or a municipality. Multiple jurisdictions may tax the same property. Years ago, a number of states passed caps on property taxes, which limited income. Whether it’s Prop 13 in California, Measure 5 in Oregon, or TABOR in Colorado, caps on Property Taxes have caused a massive budget deficit, causing schools to fire teachers, and in Arizona’s case, even cutting their school week down to 4 days. How would you like your child to receive 20% less education?
2. Raise and Redistribute Property Taxes
A recent NPR article evaluated the pay disparity between school districts, and the results were staggering. Districts that had successful businesses and few students had more funding than those who had less businesses and more students in need. In short, the district funding is silo’d.
Texas state Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, a Republican, stood on the bustling floor of the House of Representatives in Austin and asked his fellow lawmakers to fix the problem. “Members, it’s just a small, technical cleanup of a little bit of school finance stuff, and I move to passage… We think in terms of black kids and brown kids and white kids. We think of poor kids and rich kids, kids from small districts and kids from larger districts. And we each come here representing our subset of kids, and that’s how the process works.”
Several states help poorer schools compensate for that local imbalance. In 2013, North Carolina provided two-thirds of its schools’ funding. Other states like Alaska, Montana, New York, and New Jersey have distributed their state funding evenly for years, and have some of the highest performance rates in the country.
3. Income Tax for Education
In 1990, when voters passed Measure 5, the deal was the state would use income tax revenue to help offset the effect of this new cap. Income tax is a fair and equitable way of raising money for education, since those who make the most money benefit from an educated public, and a qualified pool of employees. There’s just one problem: In tough economic times, income is more volatile than property values. This can lead to a roller coaster for schools if income tax is the sole form of income, but in conjunction with other funding sources, it can open up new avenues for local schools.
4. Corporate Tax
A corporate tax, also called corporation tax or company tax, is a direct tax imposed by a jurisdiction on the income or capital of corporations or analogous legal entities. Many countries impose such taxes at the national level, and a similar tax may be imposed at state or local levels. This is beneficial because as we pointed out previously, businesses benefit from an educated electorate, because they then have a better pool of employees to choose from.
5. Gross Receipts
A gross receipts tax or gross excise tax is a tax on the total gross revenues of a company, regardless of their source. A gross receipts tax is similar to a sales tax, but it is levied on the seller of goods or service consumers. This is compared to other taxes listed as separate line items on billings, are not directly included in the listed price of the item, and are not a factor in markup or profit on company sales. A gross receipts tax has a pyramid effect that increases the actual taxable percentage as it passes through the product or service life-cycle.
Carucage was a tax on land levied in Medieval England. The reason this applies to education expenses is that the tax was only collected when the government required extra revenue and was never levied regularly. This form of taxation could serve as a stop-gap measure for one-time education budget overages. If facilities need to be repaired, an unexpected swell of new students, or some other unforeseen expense occurs, then a Carucage tax could be levied the following year.
7. Sin Tax
Aside from being a salacious header, a Sin Tax can be a quite lucrative way to raise money for schools. A Sin Tax is a tax levied against any undesired activity. This includes taxes on alcohol and cigarettes. California has had a tobacco tax dedicated to public education for decades. Such a tax can be levied on any goods deemed harmful to society, including alcohol and tobacco, candies, drugs, soft drinks, fast foods, coffee, sugar, gambling, and pornography. In a way, this carve out for education funding takes money that some in society may consider dirty, and uses it for something clean, similar to a Pigovian tax.
8. Gasoline Excise Tax/Carbon Tax
A carbon tax is a tax levied on the carbon content of fuels. A fuel tax (also known as a petrol, gasoline or gas tax, or as a fuel duty) is an excise tax imposed on the sale of fuel. In most countries the fuel tax is imposed on fuels which are intended for transportation. Because of the harmful affects of Carbon-based fuels, such a tax serves as a Pigovian tax where it’s intended to correct an inefficient market outcome, and does so by being set equal to the social cost of the negative externalities. In short, it raises money for students while encouraging more people to switch to Green energy over time.
9. Added Sales Tax
We all know what a sales tax is, we pay it every time we buy something at the local store. Earmarking those taxes for education could provide a valuable source of revenue. However, because sales tax is only applied to Consumer goods and not Business-to-Business sales, it affects middle-class families most.
10. Robin Hood Tax
This is exactly what it sounds like, a tax on financial transactions of the rich (purchase and sale of stocks, bonds, commodities, unit trusts, mutual funds, and derivatives) and gives that money to the poor. A United Kingdom-based global campaign for the Robin Hood tax was launched on 10 February 2010 and is being run by a coalition of over 50 charities and organizations, including Christian Aid, Comic Relief and UNICEF. Tracking this on a state level can be difficult, but not impossible. It’s all a question of political will.
In conclusion, there are many ways to raise funding for education resources, and get better schools for underserved children. All it takes is the political will. So, take the time, reach out to your state legislator, county supervisor, and ask that they raise additional taxes and revenue devoted to public education funding.