Thursday, June 11, 2009

Cy-Fair to Revoke Homestead Exemption

The Cypress-Fairbanks school district (Cy-Fair) is considering a proposal by Superintendent David Anthony to revoke the homestead exemption. According to the Chronicle:
Eliminating the 20 percent exemption would net the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District an extra $35 million for operating expenses and $10 million for debt service this year, he said.

Owners of a $100,000 home would see their bill rise by $287 over last year, according to district estimates. Senior citizens wouldn’t be affected by the hike.

Anthony also wants to raise the tax rate from $1.35 per $100 assessed value to $1.37 in response to a projected $28.8 million budget deficit.

Home owners in the Cy-Fair district are understandably upset at this proposed tax increase. But they aren't about to question the premise that underlies public education. One home owner is quoted:
It’s tight economic times. People don’t want to pay higher taxes, but at the same time we can’t abandon the children.

According to this taxpayer, the choice is between higher taxes and abandoning the children. And only some selfish ogre would even begin to consider abandoning the children. So taxpayers will just have to pony up.

This attitude treats education as a right. But a right pertains to action, not the results of action. Rights sanction freedom of action--the freedom to act according to one's judgment, so long as the mutual rights of others are respected. Any "right" that pertains to results--whether education, or housing, or health care--necessarily requires that some pay for the benefit of others. And this is precisely what the public education system does.

Government's proper purpose is the protection of our rights, not the provision of education. As with any improper government service, education has become a political football. Battles over textbooks, curriculum, and funding are routine as disparate groups compete for political influence and the power to impose their views and values on school districts.

As I wrote in May:
Public education involves the use of force on two levels—economically and intellectually. Economically, taxpayers are compelled to provide financial support for public schools. Intellectually, this means that taxpayers are compelled to support the teaching of ideas that they may oppose, such as evolution or creationism.

As long as the citizenry regards education as a right that must be funded with tax money, these issues will continue. As long as the premise that we are our brother's children's keeper remains unchallenged, the political battles over education will only intensify.

If the schools were privatized these battles would end. Parents could choose the schools that offered a curriculum to their liking. Taxpayers would not be forced to support schools that graduate functional illiterates. The home owner might consider this abandoning the children. The truth is, he and other parents have abandoned their children to a failing system, whether they want to admit it or not.

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