Friday, October 9, 2020

School Boards Pushing for New Property Taxes - Beware

Tampa Bay, Fl Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD

No matter where you live on Florida’s West Coast, you've probably been seeing in the newspaper and hearing on your local TV station superintendents of schools and perhaps the chairman of the school board lamenting the fact that they are running short of money.

Along with these hues and cries for more funding are efforts to place new school board and school system property tax referendums on either the current or the upcoming ballot.

For most Florida school systems, budget time is upon them. Now no doubt school systems have incurred some additional costs related to the COVID-19 virus, the decision to reopen schools, and the requirement to follow state and local guidelines as they perform those reopenings.

However, there are other issues impacting school board revenues. First,  there's the slow but steady move of students from the public-school system to private and charter schools. What most people don't know or understand is that public school funding at the local school board level is determined not by how much is budgeted but how many students attend every single day.

As parents and students make the conscious decision to leave the public-school system for any number of reasons not the least of which is it's not meeting their needs they take with them the daily funding for their students. So a great portion of the declining revenue of the public school system is directly due to the way, the school boards and the school systems provide their service, which is an education for the students.

Voters need to be wary of school superintendents and the chairman of school boards pleading for more money to educate fewer students. There is hardly a school system and a school administration on the West Coast of Florida that is not overloaded and over bloated with special programs. All of these special programs like the arts and sports should be addressed before citizens approve any increases in property tax or new educational property tax referendums.

Frequently promoted on the backs of cutting specialized services such as services to students with special needs, the arts, and other similar types educational efforts most of this rhetoric is designed to produce emotional reactions rather than practical review of the real-world situation.

One could well make the argument that the purpose of the public-school system is to prepare students for a life in the real world. To equip them with the educational tools to either go on to advanced education or to enter the workforce.

Before you start voting to approve property tax referendums for public schools, which will be with you forever, it might be a good idea to suggest to your school board that they do both an administrative review and a curriculum review.

Special needs education should never be on the table as an economic bargaining chip. These are among our most vulnerable students. All of us bear an obligation to provide help and educational support to these most challenged among us.

Maybe it's time for those who would like an elitist education at the public-school level to pay part of the bill of providing that educational service in the form of tuition.

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