Are property taxes really a good way to fund education?

I think the way we fund education just entrenches income inequality, and neglects low-income students. A child’s education should not be determined by the price of their parent’s house. All schools should be on equal ground, and property taxes are all about inequality. What is the best way to fund K-12, to provide more equality? I would also argue that families should get to choose between any school in the district they live in, instead of being forced by neighborhoods.

Where are you that property taxes are earmarked education spending?

Im not sure how much the funding source really drives the outcome. New York City levies an income tax, and its public schools are among the most segregated in the nation. Offering choices is an interesting topic, but it can raise difficult issues as well.

When I lived in New York the school district was not aligned with our town, or even our county. The school district was spread over several towns in two counties, and we paid a school tax specifically for that. Here in RI we just pay town taxes and the school budget comes out of that, but we do know and vote on the apportionment.

Property taxes are a traditional form of taxation, they don’t contribute to income inequality problems at the individual level because the rich, or at least those who own the most valuable properties will pay the most. But for the populace of a district at large it has an effect on the value of an education in their schools because the poorest districts don’t get funded equitably with the richest. Many states perform a balancing act at the state level to overcome that problem in local districts, but simply looking at dollars and cents can be misleading. The cost of school properties, salaries, and everything else can be much higher in cities where many of the poorest people live, as a result equal spending in those areas doesn’t equal the same quality of education found in other areas.

Still, every time subjects like this come up it’s important to remember that the biggest problem we have with education in this country is parents and communities who don’t care. I don’t know how we turned into an educationally indifferent country, but it’s all I can see that separates us from the rest of the world in terms of how effective our education dollars are.

I live in western Wisconsin and our property taxes are absolutely directly affected by bond measures for schools. The increase is laid out before the vote.

In Georgia, schools are funded from both a local property tax and supplemented by the state out of the general fund. State funds are distributed by number of students (i believe) and local property taxes are similarly distributed equally based on students per school, aside from capital projects like constructing a new school. So, while Cobb County Schools will have a different spending per student than Rabun County schools, funding within the district is relatively equal.

The difference is that in the rich part of a county, the PTA is well funded, fundraisers meet all their goals, donated playground equipment shows up, and parents are involved and come to the parent teacher meetings. In the poor areas, PTA has no money, fundraisers might as well not happen, there is basically no donated equipment, and parents don’t show up to the kid’s activities or parent-teacher meetings.

Even if the funding from the district is equivalent (which it is, AFAICT), the parents in the richer areas have both the resources and the inclination to be involved in the educational process. There’s not much the district can do about that.

Remember that it isn’t just home owners paying for it. It is every property, and your commercial properties pay a lot more. Businesses are therefore paying for the education of their future work force. This is appropriate.

That isn’t necessarily the case. Each state has it’s own means of taxation. I’m sure in every state businesses pay state taxes that go to education, but some businesses, just like some individuals can also be a net loss to the state tax-wise.

That depends on the tax structure of the state and city - in some cases commercial property tax rates are smaller - to make the community business friendly. And if the business in question got tax breaks when they went in. Many times, a company will put a building somewhere and the deal will be no property taxes for X years. When I worked in Corporate tax, the deal for no property taxes was timed to be the same as the depreciation schedule and obsolesce of the building - at which point we could close it and move somewhere else. We never paid property tax.

I’m in South Eastern Wisconsin. My property taxes very clearly list [name of city] Schools and the amount going to them. They also list a certain amount going to a local tech college.

Here’s a sample of a tax bill from a nearby city. You can see on it a portion for Gateway Tech (the tech college in that city) and Kenosha Unified School system.
Could be different in different states and maybe the money gets shifted around at the state level, but all the samples I looked at in Wisconsin had money specifically tagged as going to the schools. To me, at least, it would seem that cities with bigger and better houses will have bigger and better schools.

I’m not entirely convinced that there’s much correlation between the amount of money spent and the quality of the education. Here is an article last year on per-student education spending across the country. The highlights are that Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington DC, Alaska, and New York spend between $16,631 and $19,818 per student on education. Utah, my state, is dead last at $6,555 per student. In fact, most of my primary and secondary education was in the Jordan School District, noteworthy for spending the least amount of money, per student, among the 100 largest school districts in the country (at a miserly $5,708 per student). Now (while I’m confident that some dopers are thinking that lack of spending explains a fair bit of my posting history), are Utah’s schools, or Jordan School District in particular, among the worst schools in the country? NO! They’re actually doing just fine. Conversely, when you think of the finest public schools in the country, do you think DC is in the top 3? I doubt it.

I’m sure there is a significant difference between $7,500 per student and $15,000 per student.

No so sure there is a major difference between $15,000 and $20,000.

It depends on how those costs are applied. A large part of that $15,000 could go to costs that vary by locality and aren’t directly applied to the education of a child. Cities may have much higher costs for the school properties, face crime problems requiring additional security, and need to pay teachers and administrators at higher rates to work there. Simply comparing total budgets divided by students doesn’t provide an accurate picture.

Its a somewhat complex correlation. There are lots of co-variants. But around here, if there are two districts with similar socio-economic demographics, a similar school population in terms of special needs; those that spend more per student tend to have better SAT and ACT scores and more kids going to college. There are other opportunities as well - better facilities. Better extracurricular opportunities.

But there are lots of co variants. If you have a school that spends a lot on special education because they have a very high number of special needs kids (and not the ADHD diagnosis to get more time on tests, but the truly needy kids) per pupil spending will go up, but the comparative outcomes won’t change. Likewise, a school that has a challenging socio-economic profile - where kids are struggling with poverty, where parents aren’t educated, can spend a lot more money to get average results than a school where the socio-economics mean kids that get B’s go to Sylvan.

If I understand correctly, your goal is to have more ‘equal’ education outcomes. Giving families the chance to attend any school in the district they live in would seem counter to that goal. Rich families, perhaps with a stay-at-home mom, reliable cars, lots of free time, will choose to send their children to the best school in the district, while poor families will be forced to pick the one closest / most accessible to them. This is going to increase inequality, not decrease it.

I wonder if that can be teased out. Say, adjust HurricaneDitka’s school district’s amount per student by COL, by land price, and by special needs funding, and THEN see how it compares to spending per student and outcome.

I imagine expensive Connecticut will not look so overpriced and underperforming after that adjustment.

There is nothing that will prevent higher income neighborhoods simply donating money to the school their kid goes to. That playing field will not be level, nor do I think it’s desirable to make it so.

I don’t think there’s ANY perfectly fair way to fund any public service. Do you give each student an equal sum of money and tell them to spend it any way they can? Do you give every school an equal amount per student? Do you tell everyone they have to pay exactly the same amount in taxes?

What’s the point of drawing a border around an area and calling it a school district if the funding for the schools doesn’t come from within that district, and the voters within that district don’t have some say in how much funding they’re willing to raise? Once you’ve determined that, what method do you have for getting that funding – sales tax, income tax, property tax, per capita tax or something else?

I think you’re wrong, or at least that it’s more complicated than that.

Currently, the richest families send their kids to the best school by buying more expensive houses in the best school district.

For moderately poorer families, buying a reliable car (or getting the kids up an hour early to catch the bus) is much more feasible than spending an extra $200k on a house in the best school district.

So, this change would make it easier for some poor families to get to go to the best schools.

The poorest families, who can’t get reliable transportation, would still be stuck at the worst/poorest schools, but they are in the current system, too.

Perhaps. For context, Utah has an “open-enrollment” law that allows pretty much exactly what you’re asking for. Last year our libtard paper, the Salt Lake Tribune, blamed it for ‘white flight’. Here are some selected quotes: