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E. Pa. man protests school taxes by paying with 7,143 $1 bills

Rob Fernandes, father of three, gestures toward the 7,143 dollar bills he used to pay his school taxes in Fork Township, Pa., on Aug.. 27, 2013. The scene is taken from his YouTube video.
Rob Fernandes, father of three, gestures toward the 7,143 dollar bills he used to pay his school taxes in Fork Township, Pa., on Aug.. 27, 2013. The scene is taken from his YouTube video.
Video: Stacks for tax: Man pays up with 7,143 $1 bills

Bet tax collector Anne Bennett-Morse is glad Rob Fernandes didn't pay his school taxes in pennies.

The Forks Township father, whose three children are homeschooled, last week staged a personal protest against funding public education by lugging in a satchel filled with 7,143 one-dollar bills.

He had everything recorded on a YouTube video for the world to see -- and hear his reasons.

Sporting a clean, pinstriped dress shirt, untucked over jeans, the crew-cutted IT manager neatly piled 71 stacks worth $100 each on the counter, along with 54 cents, at the municipal building of the Northampton County town, a few miles north of Easton.

"I’m not doing this to make anybody’s life more difficult," he politely said to Bennett-Morse, before negotiating over how to get a paid-in-full receipt. She wanted a bank to count it first -- "I’m not going to count every one dollar” -- and he agreed to accompany her.

Because they left, however, Fernandes elaborated on-camera about his reasons, declaring that he regarded money taken for school taxes as "stolen."

"We homeschool our kids, so we don’t even use the public school system, yet I’m being forced to pay all this money into a public school system that I don’t use, don’t want, don’t need. And I don’t think that’s really either fair, just or even ethical," he said.

"It would be the equivalent if McDonald’s were to force vegetarians to pay for their cheeseburgers," he said.

"I’m a big proponent of education," he said, but clarified by saying, "Education can be provided more efficiently in a free market."

After the bank declined to allow cameras inside, Fernandes had more to say.

"You can’t play the game of politics," he said. "This isn’t about politics. This is about morality. This is about ethics. so I’m not interested in going to a school board and asking them for more of my money."

"I’m surprised that they can’t count money," he said.

"What kind of crime boss are they when they can’t even count the haul?" quipped a man off-camera, making Fernandes laugh.

"I hope that everybody out there that’s listening to this, everybody out there that sees this, they start thinking about things. Let’s have a conversation," Fernandes said, who again said schools would be better if they fell under a true free-market system.

"I hear people who have kids in the school system complaining all the time. And they  get nowhere. Because there’s no incentive for them to provide better service."

For counterarguments, including how Fernandes choose to move to Forks Township, how homeschooled kids can use extracurricular actvities in Pennsylvania, and how education benefits everyone by reducing crime, see "taxgirl" column at Forbes.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

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