Dropout Nation has offered its own reasons for why states should take full control of school funding instead of just funding 48 percent of the spend. The fact that school districts can continue to use their dependence on property tax dollars to oppose reforms — especially school choice and Parent Power — is one reason. But as Contributing Editor Michael Holzman points out, continuing to derive school funding from property tax dollars contributes to the ineffectiveness of American public education.
A good example of American Exceptionalism is the way that schools are funded here. In most other developed countries, schools are funded from general taxation. Much of the financial support for American schools, in contrast, is derived from local property taxes. This means that the amount of support available per student is not equalized, as in some countries, or “challenged-based,” as in Britain, for example, but is based on the local tax rate and the value of the property subject to school taxes. This results in wide variations between districts.
Take Connecticut, one of the states with the widest variations in both support for education and educational outcomes. The Bridgeport school district had approximately $2,500 to spend on each student from local sources. The Westport school district had $18,500.
Another is Florida. Five districts have local revenue under $2,000 per student. Five districts have revenue over $10,000 per student.
One way to look at this is that some people pay much higher school taxes than others. (Although, paradoxically, the actual tax rates in some poorer areas are higher than in wealthier areas near-by.) Another way to look at it is that some children go to much less well-supported schools than others.
Neither seems either effective or fair, does it?