I am taking certain things for granted even discussing funding when it comes to the school of the future. Mainly, that education will continue to be mandated by the federal government. I certainly hope that as a society we continue to value education and require it of all our citizens, but when thinking of the future maybe this won’t be the case. So let’s just say that in terms of mandated education that things remain the same, well that is not the only thing that has the possibility of altering the way education is funded. If the school of the future is not held in a central location that will change the need for funding, and if location is changed then the teacher to student ratio will certainly change. But those are discussions for later in the series.
The way I look at it, there are really only two main ways to fund education: either you pay for it, or your government does. If the objective of education is equity then we really can’t even consider the former option, right? Or can we? Nope, I don’t think that we can. While being forced to pay for your own education might yield short term results such as students who have more of a stake in their own education, the long term results of that scenario are a nightmare for society at large. So if we discard paying for your own education as a means to further financially stratify our society, what we have left is public funding. Any one of us working in public education in America knows that the way public school is funded doesn’t work. The property tax as inequitable as paying for education yourself. Consider the school that I work for. The major property owner in my school district is the State University of New York (SUNY), because they are a state institution they pay no tax. The second largest land owners in the district are family farmers who own a lot of property. Anyone who has any experience with family farms knows that just because they own a great deal of land doesn’t mean they are growing wealthy on all of that land. So my district is left with a very small tax base, which is filled in by…wait for it…state aid. When state aid goes up, property taxes go up even more, and negative sentiment for the educational system increases.
Why couldn’t the school of the future be funded by a flat tax? Or an income tax. It isn’t perfect, but I think it is more fair. At least people and districts would no what to expect in terms of their responsibilities. What do you think? How should the school of the future be funded?