Friday, October 28, 2011

Tax Increase: Schools

I was asked recently whether I'll vote in favor of or against Colorado Proposition 103.  Colorado Proposition 103, if passed, will increase both sales tax and income tax in the state of Colorado for the next five years, with the additional revenue going to fund schools.  

I almost always vote in favor of tax increases, especially those that will benefit schools ~ and I'll probably vote yes on this one, too. 

As I understand it, though, there's disagreement about whether the proposition is well-constructed, though.  Part of the trouble may be that the tax increases might impact poor people the hardest.  Poor people won't be affected by the increase in state income tax (since they don't have enough income to have to pay that tax), but they will be hit harder by the increase in sales tax than richer people. 

We're talking about two different issues, though.  There is certainly a question as to which income bracket ought to bear the greatest brunt of the tax increase.   But before that, the question is whether schools have adequate funding. 

There are certainly some who say that increased funding has never produced better results.  Obviously more money does not necessarily equal better schools.  However, it seems to me that better results are much more difficult without increased funding.  One is not a direct result of the other, but the one is impossible without the other.  If it were true that lowered funding had no effect on performance, we could run schools for free ... which is (I hope) obviously absurd. 

Now, some people also say that the schools don't need increased revenue ~ we just need to get rid of teachers unions.  The extension seems to be that if we get rid of unions, we could balance the schools' budgets by lowering teachers' salaries (or firing teachers who are too expensive).  I have to take issue, though, with the opinion that an average salary of less than $50,000 is too expensive. 

(Of course, any time anyone mentions labor unions, there's bound to be strong differences of opinion about the efficacy of those groups.  Obviously they aren't the favorite entities of business owners, since they have a tendency to cut into profits.  At the same time, unions are certainly necessary, since without the power of collective bargaining, many business owners would succumb to the pull of greed at the expense of workers.  Plus, just like any institution, both unions and business owners have the potential to become corrupt.) 

At the end of the day, it comes down to a question of values ... particularly, what do we value?  Do we value more highly our ability to increase our bank accounts?  Do we value more highly our ability to buy things right now?  Do we value more highly ourselves and our present circumstance? 

Or are we willing to be a couple percentage points less well-off right now in order to invest in schools; in order to invest in our future? Because I'm afraid that if we're not willing to invest in schools now, we're condemning the future to tremendous desperation and hardship, which our national ancestors did their best not inflict on us.  And that, I believe, is ridiculous and wrong.


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