Judges Shift Education Funding from Towns Towards States
School Choice Weekly #150
A judge has ordered Connecticut to come up with a completely new education financing system that erases distinctions between local school districts. He’s not the only one, as Choice Media’s Bob Bowdon shows in a recent run-down of the latest school-finance cases. Bowdon writes:
One consistent element is that rather than admitting their actions are fundamentally activist, the judges generally explain that they’re obligated to take action because of century-old state constitutional phraseology, the same constitutions that somehow never compelled such action from their myriad of predecessors.
Tax-and-spend types, usually led by teachers unions who have an obvious personal interest in increasing taxpayer spending on schools, have used lawsuits as a coercion tactic for decades. Their actions are fundamentally at odds with the idea of letting local jurisdictions handle their own property and other tax systems, which in turn reduces people’s ability to vote with their feet by moving into towns that manage local affairs well and out of towns that manage such affairs poorly. It also reduces the rewards and consequences for socially beneficial and socially detrimental behavior, respectively.
There’s a lot of talk about “disparities” among neighborhoods in these kinds of lawsuits, but very little about what leads to such disparities. Neighborhoods with low tax bases tend to be neighborhoods with high crime, high rates of public nuisance events (loud music playing at night, neighbors who fight loudly with each other, people walking through others’ landscaping, etc.), an overactive and meddlesome local government, and so forth.
People naturally move away from such places when they can, and into neighborhoods where people mow the lawn when you’re sick, volunteer to coach Little League, don’t play loud music late at night, and so forth. Keeping up community standards like this leads not just to social rewards but economic rewards, as indicated by home values. “Equity” lawsuits steal these rewards and attempt to redistribute them (after greasing the palms of as many bureaucrats as possible along the way) so that people who behave well do not reap the rewards of their self-control and charity, and people who behave badly do not suffer the consequences of their self-centered and undisciplined choices. This is fundamentally unjust.
Besides its injustice, school-finance litigation is mostly a waste of time. It largely ties up court resources on seemingly endless battles that ultimately benefit children very little and divert time and attention that could be better spent. Don’t tell that to the lawyers--they won’t listen.
SOURCES: Brookings Institution, Choice Media, Hartford Courant
IN THIS ISSUE:
- FLORIDA: Enrollment in tax-credit scholarships is up past 92,000 children, making Florida’s the largest school choice program in the country.
- 2016: Presidential candidate Donald Trump proposes sending $20 billion in federal dollars as block grants to states for school-choice programs and cutting the U.S. Department of Education. Hillary Clinton’s education positions are less clear-cut, although they include a proposal for a new federal preschool entitlement and increased federal college subsidies.
- ARKANSAS: Students in one school district are not allowed to use the state’s new school choice program because it might change the federally mandated racial makeup of public schools, a judge has ruled.
- BLACK BOYS: High-achieving African-American boys are much more likely to get a bachelor’s degree if they attended a private high school, finds a new study.
- ALABAMA: Homeschoolers can now join public school football teams thanks to a new “Tim Tebow” law.
- TROUBLED STUDENTS: As more children act out in school, school districts look for ways to keep managing them while not hurting the well-behaved children, and more are turning to alternative schools run by private companies.
- SCHOOL CLOSURES: While the vast majority of Americans would prefer to keep a persistently poor-performing school open, research suggests it would be better for the kids if it were closed.
- CONNECTICUT: A coalition of parents and advocacy organizations has filed suit against the state’s limits on magnet and charter-school expansion, arguing the limits unfairly deny poor children access to higher-quality schools.
- TEXAS: A lawmaker proposes replacing the state’s troubled single testing system with giving schools the freedom to pick among a variety of well-respected tests.
- NORTH CAROLINA: More parents now homeschool their kids than private school them in this state, and homeschooling leaders attribute that partly to Common Core.
- HISTORY: As high school and college history programs become more politically liberal and omit important ideas and events, fewer students are enrolling in college history classes.
- FLORIDA: A judge ruled in favor of parents who are suing their school district because the district is using the state’s third-grade reading test to deny their kids admission to fourth grade.
- MICHIGAN: Most students have again flunked the state’s Common Core tests, which first came out last year. Michigan also has dramatic achievement gaps between white and black children.
- ARIZONA: Arizona’s anti-Common Core state superintendent will hold public town halls about Common Core this fall.
- THINK AND TALK: The Heartland Institute has just released an updated version of its Common Core booklet for sharing with family, lawmakers, and friends. Free online ... and written by yours truly.
- SAT: The FBI has raided the home of the whistleblower who alleges the new SAT skipped crucial quality checks, seizing computers and documents in an effort to determine if he’s behind the leak of confidential test questions. College Board insists he’s a disgruntled former employee whose accusations are baseless; the whistleblower, Manuel Alfaro, has fired back.
- MARYLAND: Parents should not be informed when a school rooms a transgender student with their child of the opposite biological sex, a state official told school administrators during a training session.
- ESSA: House Education Chairman John Kline is upset that the U.S. Department of Education is using power he allowed it to have in ways he doesn’t like--this time to force local school districts to raise taxes by billions nationwide as part of “supplement, not supplant” regulations. The draft regulations would force states to restructure how they fund education--which comprises at least half of state budgets in most cases.
- ACT: One-third of the nation’s students failed to meet college readiness levels in all four of the subjects tested on the ACT, a decrease in proficiency compared to last year. Test officials attribute the drop to a larger number of students taking the test.
- INTERNET ACCESS: The more federal money a school received for internet access, the worse its students performed academically, finds a new study. And new research finds screens are addicting and behavior-altering for many children.
- HIGHER EDUCATION: After the school year began for its 40,000 students, a for-profit college that was given no opportunity to have its case heard in court has been tanked by the federal government.
- OREGON: Without telling parents, a local school district started using kids’ fingerprints to log their lunch purchases.
- ACCOUNTABILITY: Greg Forster’s latest installment in his school accountability series is out.
Thank you for reading! If you need a quicker fix of news about school choice, you can find daily updates online at https://www.heartland.org/topics/education.