If you don’t know about Glenn Richardson’s plan to eliminate ad valorem taxes in Georgia, you must be dead–just like his Great Plan. Speaker Richardson supposedly toured the state telling everyone about his proposal to do away with property taxes, but he only told people bits and pieces and would entertain no public discussion. The city and county governments jumped on him. Casey Cagle and most everyone else in the Georgia Senate expressed grave concern about such a proposal and essentially said it would not pass the Senate. For whatever reason, his plan has now morphed into a plan to eliminate the school tax portion of the property tax.
My question: Why schools? Why education? If it won’t work for city and county governments, what makes it good for schools? In this interview Jeff Hubbard, President of the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE), explains what this proposal means for education.
There are a lot of problems with this misconceived plan to take away local control of the education budget, but regardless of the shear power grab by the legislature, I don’t understand why we would want the quality of our education to depend on how much money people spend on goods and services, particularly with an economy that may be going downhill. If teachers get paid out of sales tax revenues and the economy goes in the tank, revenues go down and school districts have to scramble from month to month to make ends meet.
If you talk to these guys in charge of our state budget, like the Governor, they just love to tell you that they put more and more money into education every year. That may be true, but as Jeff points out, the fact that we spend more does not mean we are improving the quality of the education our kids receive. Georgia is one of the fastest growing states in the nation and a lot of the increase in education funding is due to this increase in the population of the state. More money does not translate into more money for classroom instruction. There may be more money for more buildings to house more students, but the money to improve the quality of instruction doesn’t increase.
There are about 1.6 million school age kids in Georgia. About half of them qualify for free lunches, which means they are generally from lower income families. About 57% of the state budget goes for education. And yet, we have never fully funded education according to the formulas set up 23 years ago in the Quality Basic Education Act.
Speaker Richardson and anyone who supports his efforts to transfer the cost of funding public education from the property owners (many of them wealthy) to the working families of Georgia (through the sales tax) is not seeking to improve education in this state. They are seeking power. They are manipulating the people of this state by promising the elimination of a significant portion of their property taxes without explaining the dangerous consequences for our struggling, underfunded educational system.
One of these days!