Monday, November 20, 2006

The dues we pay for a civilized society

I believe taxes are a good thing. I think taxes are moral and ethical. Taxes are the dues we pay for living in a civilized society. The demonization of taxation by anti-tax advocates is, in my view, unpatriotic to the extreme.

That's why this post by Terry Olson is so good.

Terry's post demonstrates the liberal value of local school control while advocating a broad base of taxation in order to fund schools:

Why should schools be locally controlled?

Because people in Prineville and Burns, for example, are more likely to see the value of funding agricultural education or promoting chapters of Future Farmers of Amerca than the people who live in Portland. And urban districts, like Portland, are much more likely to stress the importance of assimilating, say, Haitian or Laotian students into the local culture.

Why broadly funded?

Because of the disparity of property wealth between districts. Students should never be denied adequate educational facilities (or good teaching) because of where they live.

The problem is that outside money often comes with strings attached (NCLB, for example.) That's why Texas school districts took to calling themselves independent districts, as in the Houston Independent School District. They didn't want the feds telling them what to do. Ironic, given that Houston in particular was the model for the highly intrusive No Child Left Behind legislation.

The problem with that thinking is that even local money, primarily from the property tax, goes to schools, or in the case of Portland, even other districts, over which the taxpayer has little direct control. In fact, most local money comes from people with no school-aged children. But frankly, who cares? If one sees public education as a vital government service and as part of the infrastructure of a civilized and enlightened society, where's the problem?

And there's the rub. That "if" statement is the total thrust of the argument.

Unfortunately, there are a significant number of individuals and groups that want to demonize and divide the public school system.

They don't see public education as a "vital government service". And they're working overtime to make sure other people don't see it that way, too.

In order to make Terry's great idea a reality, public education supporters must rise above the din. They must continue to convince the electorate about the vital importance of investing a strong public education system.

I often hear the detractors of taxation screech about "keeping their own money". Except it isn't their money. They belong to this society..just like the rest of us. This investment is part of the dues we all pay for living here.

And its about damn time pro-investment advocates start making that clear.