When Public Schools Rely on Local Property Taxes: Letters
Readers discuss the phenomenon of school districts being isolated from financial resources in their communities.
The Whiter, Richer School District Right Next Door
Earlier this month, Adam Harris wrote about how public schools’ dependence on local property taxes can lead to large disparities in funding between neighboring districts. Waterbury, Connecticut, for example, is touched by eight other districts, each one whiter, more affluent, and receiving more dollars than Waterbury itself.
Thank you so much for writing on this very important topic. As a resident of Oakland, California, for decades I have witnessed the degradation of our public schools while right next door wealthy towns like Piedmont, Orinda, and Lafayette are funding state-of-the-art schools with local resources.
I realize that I have accepted this situation as just how it is for many years. Articles like yours remind me that this is an insidious problem.
Readers responded on Twitter:
I wonder why this system isn’t actionable as a violation of Equal Protection. “Waterbury’s predicament points to an unstable aspect of the public-education system in the United States: The foundation of its funding comes from local property taxes.” https://t.co/DqXhihHJ8s— Kevin J. Maroney (@womzilla) August 7, 2019
Born and raised in Waterbury — this article nails down what a lot of us have been saying for a long time. #EducationReform needs to happen NOW. https://t.co/lF3w7TqZ3A— hernanat (@antfeedr) August 6, 2019
I agree it’s a problem but the solution will not be as simple as the article assumes. How many people will accept having their property tax dollars fund education in other towns? https://t.co/6WX7vMht8N— Tans (@steve_tansley) August 5, 2019
My research on achievement gaps has convinced me that school quality won’t be equitable until school funding mechanisms aren’t dependent on district property taxes. This great article by @AdamHSays in @TheAtlantic with research from @EdBuild explains why. https://t.co/YHqm9rYt3x— AchievementResearch (@AchieveResearch) August 2, 2019
Thoughtful piece by @AdamHSays with ideas on how to fix this historical problem. But seems this has to be a state or national solution. Not sure pooling money by county works. Maryland has county-based schools and still has huge inequities. https://t.co/CV0qm0hmzZ— Jeff Selingo (@jselingo) August 2, 2019
I grew on the south shore of Long Island. I still remember when I realized the term “de facto segregation” was not just in my history book but in my backyard. Thank you for this important piece @AdamHSays @TheAtlantic. https://t.co/dw8GYIKg9y— Cindy Johanson (@cinjo) August 2, 2019
Readers responded on Facebook:
Justin Coleman wrote: Wolcott may be able to spend more of its own tax dollars per pupil, but Waterbury gets FAR more state education aid than Wolcott. The final numbers—when you factor in both municipal funding and state funding—show Waterbury spending about $1,500 more per pupil than Wolcott. That’s according to a non-profit, non-partisan education research group in Connecticut.
I understand the point that the article seeks to make here, but the real numbers tell a story that differs quite a bit from theirs.
Robson Formica wrote: This article doesn’t even mention the absurd regressive taxation issues. A district with a ton of commercial property (perhaps due to a highway interchange) can fund its schools with much lower taxes.
Justin Singleton wrote: My husband and I don’t have kids or intend to. So our house was roughly 1/3 the cost of the same house 2 blocks away. That’s where the white suburban school district starts.