Sunday, June 26, 2016

Idiotic School Tax System Helps Rich, Hurts Poor in Charleston County

As you read about the Charleston County School District's financial problems,  please put the responsibility for failures where it belongs.

Can we start with politicians? They caved to complaints (probably from big donors) about high property taxes as Charleston County homes rose exponentially in value. As Sunday's article on CCSD's new budget points out, "Perhaps the biggest school-finance stumbling block is Act 388, a property tax break for owner-occupied homes that started in 2007. A new penny sales tax was supposed to make up the difference in the state budget, but has fallen short by tens of millions of dollars every year." The more expensive your home, the greater your tax break. If you didn't own a home, you really got soaked. Duh. 

Only the most gullible thought that the following scenario did not loom on the horizon: "The Statehouse’s budget woes get passed down to the Charleston County School District, which, as one of the wealthier districts in the state, receives relatively less per-pupil funding from the state compared to poorer districts." Duh.

Now we're stuck with the not-a-penny sales tax. Return to the old system? Good luck with that. Did you ever see a tax go away? We now have many new and practically new school buildings without the funds to operate them without cutting teachers and keeping their pay low.

Let's continue with ex-Superintendent she-who-cannot-be-named (or blamed). Paul Bowers hasn't been on the school district beat for long, so he'll probably be forgiven for mentioning her name in conjunction with the BRIDGE program fiasco that put about $10 million in the edublob's pockets and only half a million in those of the teachers it was supposed to reward--and also didn't work. Tip of the iceberg. The time has come for zero-based budgeting to root these suckers out.

Finally, let's turn attention to the often-maligned School Board. Most (but not all!) of the past and present members should take the blame for lackluster oversight and understanding of the district's finances. She-who-cannot-be-named and the Chamber of Commerce saw to it that those elected would follow whatever the superintendent and her associates desired. Compliant and ill-qualified citizens received their support; those who tried to educate themselves about their responsibilities or rock the boat, the local paper vilified as crackpots. 

The bottom line is poor management of resources. Everyone can now recite the cost in financial failure--$18 million dollars in shortfall--but what about the cost of educational failure?

I'll state it again: only 15 percent of black third-graders can read at grade level; further, 40 percent of white third-graders cannot! These failures result from years of focus on literacy? 

Something is very wrong in the elementary schools. Teachers? Curriculum? Parents? Discipline?

Whatever it is, this aspect of deficit is much more troubling than finances will ever be.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have you heard the latest about Dr. Herring?