Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

A different take on the school funding question

Do property taxes and schools mix?

A different take on the school funding question

In my last post, I asked whether it is fair or wise that we spend so much less on children in Philadelphia district schools than we do on kids in most other districts.

That prompted a commenter named Ken Byers to ask: "Property tax revenues don't rival those of Haddonfield because people who live in Haddonfield pay extremely high taxes. Mine are 13k a year. What do you pay?"

It's a great point, so let me rephrase my original question. Is funding schools via local property taxes smart? To paraphrase Brett Mandel, an expert on Philadelphia property taxes and a former candidate for city controller, that lets a zip code determine the quality of a child's education.

The current system is arguably unfair to people in Haddonfield and to people like me. Ken's taxes are very high (though I would bet I pay more in wage taxes), but he gets good schools. My property taxes are low, but Philadelphia schools are generally poor.

Of course, lots of factors affect student performance. Money is only one. But wouldn't Philadelphia students have a better shot at success if the amount spent on them was closer to what is spent in most suburbs?

As a parent considering Philadelphia public schools, I can tell you that if my school offered a foreign language, it would be a lot more appealing to me and my husband.

A couple of readers also mentioned that my original post left them feeling as if I hate suburbanites. That's not true. I prefer to live in the city, but I may well move to Haddonfield and pay the higher taxes there because they are a bargain compared to the cost of private school in Philadelphia. Ken's $13K would still be far short of the $20K and up many city parents pay to send each child to a private school.

Isn’t there a better way for all of us? I’d love to hear reader ideas on whether our current system works and what might work better.

Finally, to the reader who noted that many Philadelphia teachers pay hundreds of their own money for supplies for their students, which subsidizes the district, a big "Thank You!" Teachers shouldn't have to do this, but they do, because they believe every child deserves a good education. Again, money matters.

Miriam Hill
About this blog
Reach Miriam at hillmb@phillynews.com.

Miriam Hill
Latest Videos:
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected