April 19, 2007

Dopey WNJ Letter of the Week

David Arnold of Wilmington has a problem with school tax-increase referendums (specifically what must be the upcoming Brandywine District referendum):

I wish to come out strongly against any rise in school taxes. The district spends more than $15,000 per student, among the highest in the country. Under-utilized buildings and increasing numbers of employees in the face of decreasing enrollment are just poor management. In excess of 50 administrators making more than $100,000 a year plus benefits is ridiculous.

First, from where does Arnold draw that [more than] $15,000 figure? I have seen some figures from Allen Kemp, former head of "Citizens for Fair School Taxes" and now proprietor of the School Watch website that have Brandywine in the $14,000 + range. So, right away, the claim of "more than $15,000 per student," based on a referendum opponent's own figures, is incorrect. Next, Arnold claims that his own erroneous figure is "among the highest in the country." Kemp's website makes the claim that New Castle County's total cost/student is the highest in the entire country. But -- an examination of Kemp's site's bar graphs shows NO comparison to any other state's counties' per pupil cost! That, and Arnold's trying to mix Brandywine's per pupil cost to that of the entire county is quite disingenuous since, for example, the New Castle County Vo-Tech District (according to Kemp's figures) would be included in the entire county's figures -- and their per pupil cost is substantially higher than Brandywine's. So, from what evidence does Kemp (and then, Arnold) make that "highest in the country" claim? Next, Arnold makes no distinction in his diatribe against "administrators" between central office administrators and school administrators. This is a key omission, and I know of very few people who would argue that on-site administrators do not earn their money.

Now, granted, the above section of Arnold's letter is actually not all that "dopey." I don't really expect reference sources in what are frequently-edited readers' letters. He points out his figures and I've countered. What really classifies as "dopey" is the letter's second part:

Being single and having no children, I have grown weary of paying increasing amounts for the education of other people's children. Those with kids in schools should be paying not only any increase but all the costs. I have no say in how these children are raised or educated, nor should I, but my money is taken for this purpose. Oppression of a minority, through taxation, has become our tax system.

I have heard this argument before and it never ceases to make me chuckle. I've also heard that "only homeowners" should be allowed to vote in tax-increase referendums. As if renters won't pay higher rent if property taxes go up! The landlord will just absorb all the costs, right? Sheesh. And how does Arnold not have any say in how children are educated? The school board meets every month and allows for public input.

But more importantly, am I "oppressed" because I have to pay Social Security taxes my entire working life -- to support people like Mr. Arnold?? That Mr. Arnold will collect more in Social Security than the children currently in school will? The young must support the old, but the old must not support the children, is that it? And, do I get a chance to vote every so often on whether I want to raise my Social Security taxes? Hell, no! Yet, that is precisely what the public can do in Delaware when it comes to raising property taxes -- taxes which are the main source of school funding.

Posted by Hube at April 19, 2007 06:01 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

You are right that it's unfair that you have to pay to support Arnold's retirement.

He is also right that it is unfair that he has to pay to support other people's children.

These two payments do not cancel out.

When things are subsidized they are over-consumed. That is, the spending level is such that the marginal utility is lower than the marginal cost.

In short: subsidies destroy wealth society-wide.

Cross subsidies just do it twice as quickly.

Posted by: TJIC at April 20, 2007 09:25 AM

Convenient, isn't it, to forget that your own education was paid for by the aged of your youth.

Posted by: jef at April 21, 2007 05:29 PM