EDUCATION AND THE PROPERTY TAX
Two facts are widely recognized by Texans: 1) our government education system with its byzantine financing structure is broken beyond repair and must be scrapped and re-built from scratch, and 2) property taxes -- especially school property taxes -- are out of control and should be abolished. These two issues vitally important to Texans are so inextricably intertwined that they should be addressed together.
Property taxation is a liberty issue as well as a financial issue. If you can lose your home, farm, or ranch due to unpaid property taxes, you are really a renter from the government, not a landowner. For more information on my call to eliminate property taxes, see my issue “Property Tax and the Franchise Tax.”
We should eliminate the state school property tax (which makes up most of the taxation on property) and replace it at the state level with -- nothing. This will reduce the present level of funding for government schools by about 40% and restore us to funding levels of about ten years ago, which proves how we have overspent on virtually every aspect of our budget including education in recent years.
This reduction can be readily managed by ending free public education for non-citizens and restoring the Texas school system to its constitutional mission of providing an efficient system of free public schools in order to preserve the liberties and rights of the Texas people. Current funding from the state (i.e., not monies from property taxes) is between $5,000 and $6,000 per student. Many private schools provide a good education for that amount, and there is no good reason why Texas government schools cannot do the same.
An essential part of this educational overhaul is a return to local control. Government education worked far better in years past when key decisions were made by parents (the consumers), local school boards, and voters. We must remove obstacles to the re-establishment and effective use of this local control so that school boards may, if they desire, supplement the funding they receive from the state with revenues from, for example, a local option sales tax, subject to voter approval.
One size fits all does not work for a state as large and diverse as Texas. Vigorous expansion of local control will unleash teachers, parents, and local board members to craft the educational experience that they think best for their students and that they are willing to pay for. Experimentation will thrive as one district tries vouchers, another institutes on-line learning, and so on.
With this approach, the barrage of tests -- the only value of which is to comply with some bureaucratic mandate from Austin or Washington -- will end, as will the other administrative nightmares and paperwork. We can abolish truancy laws, which exist to maximize revenue from the state, and allow students of a certain age and their parents to choose whether they continue to accept free public schooling or not. As every teacher knows, a teenager who does not wish to be in school is very disruptive -- depriving other students of the ability to learn and denying the teacher the ability to teach -- and can even be dangerous. It is time for our teachers to be able to return to being teachers and not be conscripted to serve as babysitters or wardens.
Bottom line: we will have better educational services at a lower cost, and more freedom and prosperity.