Monday, October 20, 2008

A taste of things to come?? (redistribution of wealth)

I was thinking this morning about how radical I am not.

Here I am in the Midwest, in my middle class neighborhood, feeding my middle child a lukewarm piece of toast. I would even wear a size medium, if it weren’t for the fact that the marketers of ladies clothing decided to make everyone seem smaller. Now I’m a small, but I used to be a medium. I was thinking about how much I despise mediocrity. I thought perhaps I should stay away from politics and simply have a midlife crisis instead.

I called a friend of mine to tell her a fun story. She is not a friend with whom I typically debate politics, generally we focus on either our wine or our coffee, depending on the social hour at hand. I thought she would laugh at my story and make all things less medium. She obliged.

Then, she started talking about state tax policy. (And, I decided I would have to save avoiding politics for another day).

I was told this morning that our fair state will soon be implementing legislation that will reduce our city school budget by somewhere in the 20 – 30% range. Basically, our city fathers (and mothers) years ago encouraged light manufacturing and small businesses to come to our city. We have a couple regional headquarters buildings, a testing facility or two, and lots of small products. Tax money collected from these business goes into our school system. This keeps our property taxes reasonable and our school systems running with a reasonable budget. We have a nice city for many reasons, but primarily people move to our city because of the schools. We have actually had people “pretend” to move to our town in order to “sneak” their kids into the schools here. Basically, people lease apartments and move their children into them. (Parents are clever, aren’t they? Who can blame them?)

The fact that there is a disparity between the quality of schools from one town to the next is not lost on anyone.

The idea of the tax change is to take the money from these businesses and, rather than allow the money to go to our town, spread it all evenly across the schools in the state. Or, at least that is what I am hearing. That sure sounds fair and Democratic, right?

Would you like to buy my house?

When my husband and I purchased our home, we bought in our town because of the school system. Homes less than a quarter of a mile away are less expensive and larger than our home. Why? Well, if we didn’t have children, we would have lived in the next town over. We were willing to pay a premium and compromise on age/layout of our home in order to ensure a great school system for our kids.

Yes, I know, everyone should receive a fair and equal opportunity for a good education. But, people should also have choices. If you want a quality education under the current circumstances, you either live in a good school system, or work like crazy to make your system good (actually, both are required). Since parents who care about schools (and have flexibility) tend to do their research and live in an already good school system, parents who care tend to “clump together” and continue to make their school systems great. People who have other priorities, for better or worse, make other decisions.

And then, there are plenty of people out there who do not have the flexibility to make a decision at all. Maybe they live near their job in the city and don’t even have a car, for example. Maybe they are retired grandparents with custody of their grandchildren.

But, once again, my issue is not with the desire to improve the education system for everyone. My concern is how it is done. Do we punish the school systems/cities who have done well? Yes, punish the cities that have managed to vote their way into making the right choices. They shouldn’t be allowed to create jobs and have good schools. That can’t be fair.

Yes, we could raise taxes in our town. They are not that low now, actually, but they could be raised (not enough to pay the difference). We already have a neighborhood with 40 home foreclosures. I am not sure how many there have been in our whole city. I guess there would be more. While the schools and the city readjust to the new reality, some people will put their kids in private school. Those who were barely making it by could move back to a less expensive area (probably with worse schools, albeit with slightly more funding than before).

That economic diversity we have in our school system isn't natural anyway, right?

I guess my husband and I need to move to a town that doesn’t encourage small businesses to grow. We would take a big financial blow on selling our home, which would underscore to our children how futile it is to save for the future. We would have a bit of a tax increase, but we would probably make ends meet.

And, of course, we should make sure the leaders of our town discourage such willy-nilly job creation in the future. The politicians should be encouraging businesses to come to our community without any tax incentives for our schools. After all, they create jobs, many of which are held by people in other towns. They create tax revenue to support the schools in other part of our state. And, of course, let us not forget how beautiful the warehouses look and the pleasure of sharing our roads with semi-tractor trailers.

I agree with reducing taxes on companies to create jobs in America, but some portion of that revenue has to go back to the local communities, or you create a negative incentive (notinmybackyardthankyou).

I agree that schools need to be improved across the board. Funding does help (doesn’t solve it), but taking funding away from successful schools is no way to lead success.

Like I said, I used to be a “medium.” Then the rules changed and I became a “small.” This is not the kind of change I need.

Maybe it is just a rumor, but it looks a lot like a campaign promise to me.

(I was told that this information won’t be available to the parents in our school district until mid-November. I guess there is no hurry? So, how many PTA bake sales does it take to recover $1.8 million? Just wondering. Uh, no reason.)


Flea said...

What an ugly thing to hear if true. We moved halfway across the country and chose our current home almost exclusively for the school district. Fortunately the two districts on either side of us also have excellent reputations. And from what I've seen, the parents would throw a screaming FIT if things were to change as proposed in your area.

Sometimes I feel like a tiny, helpless part, caught in the machine. Small is right.

Badass Geek said...

There are some pretty crazy tax proposals going on in my state for November's ballot. It's hard to know which way to vote.

enthalpymama said...

Badass - Its often a tough call because it is difficult to play out all the possible outcomes. My only advice is to make sure you read material from people for and against the proposal. Normally both sides are pretty good about pointing out the hazards of the other.

Flea - I am still checking facts on this one. I believe it is true, but hopefully not as bad as it was described to me. I didn't print any numbers because I couldn't get the numbers to add up in the information I have here. So, we will see.

It is frustrating, and important to realize that programs often sound great, but the money for them ultimately has to come from somewhere.

And, maybe this is ultimately the right answer for our state, but we do need to have better information and communication about it. At the moment, I am definitely not seeing the light.

OHmommy said...

Does this mean you are moving or planning a huge bake sale?

Either or. Keep up updated as I like baked goods and real estate.