I was at a family gathering this summer and the usual topic of complaining about the ineptitude of local government officials and school boards came up. That then led to older participants questioning what their tax dollars were being used for and why they’re even paying school taxes to begin with. It led to an interesting topic of whether people should really just be taxed on what services and benefits they enjoy as opposed to their zip code and home size. There are a few ways to look at it.
A Question of Fairness
For instance, should a couple with no kids pay the same taxes as a couple with 4 kids in the public school system? Or what about parents that send their kids to private school? From the perspective of the people deriving no direct benefit from the local school system, they don’t see the point. It’s viewed as a school system that’s continually sucking more and more money out of the pockets of taxpayers for seemingly useless expenditures like iPads for students and exorbitant benefits.
What was especially ironic about the cries to eradicate school taxes for people who don’t have kids in the school system was the fact that the guy’s last kid had just graduated highschool – public highschool. How convenient! I mean, of course, financially, wouldn’t it be great if we all got to pay public school taxes up until the day your kid graduates and then you just stop paying?! Timing is everything; it’s all or nothing. It’s kind of like, well, Obamacare where you can forgo having real health insurance and pay a nominal fee until you get real sick or develop a chronic issue, then just sign up. It doesn’t work right that way, human nature is too opportunistic.
It Just HAS To Be This Way
In a society where we want kids to have a future (which, in turn ultimately pay for the same seniors often slamming school taxes), where we expect people to have certain services and society to function the way we expect, we will always need to pay for some things we don’t need. I had to pay PMI on my first home even though I’ve never defaulted. I pay Social Security taxes, disability, Medicare and more even though I will probably see a negative return on my payments for the duration of my employment. I’ve always paid auto insurance even though I’ve never been responsible for an accident. There are always going to be those who give and those who take. But if none of these things existed, we’d live in a much different world – fraught with risk and human suffering where there’s no safety net. Sometimes, we need to pay for things that benefit us, our children, society, or even things that don’t seem to benefit us even tangentially – because someday down the road, you might actually need it.
You might think I’ve turned bleeding heart or something. No, I’m just pragmatic. Just like you can’t “opt out” of insurance, Social Security or other systems we’ve had in place for generations, you can’t opt out of the way we fund public education. There’s an aggregate amount required to fund schools each year and parents alone can’t bear the burden. And non-parents benefit in ways they don’t even contemplate. A vibrant local economy, jobs stemming from the school locale, and a new generation of kids that will pay for their care in old age.
What Are Your Thoughts On School Tax Opt-Out?
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