(From Jerry Pournelle’s blog, Chaos Manor)
Wednesday, August 07, 2013
This exchange was in last night’s mail:
Childless Taxpayers Funding Schools
It is a common misconception that it is somehow unfair for childless people to pay taxes that fund schools. In fact, everyone who pays school taxes is simply re-paying the cost of their own education, with interest, after inflation, and generally in proportion to how much they benefited from that education.
With my reply:
Even those who went to private or religious schools? And why should it be federal? The old notion of local school boards which also controlled the school taxes made the best education system in the world at one time.
I’ve been thinking about this since. My answer was correct but insufficient.
First, there is in the “repayment” hypothesis the assumption that the education provided was worth paying for. Now some schools have alumni who clearly think the school was worth the investment. Most of them, though, were like my Christian Brothers College high school in Memphis, which gets substantial alumni support, are private schools whose pupils are there not only voluntarily, but at considerable expense. I do not know if any of the Memphis public high schools that existed when I was there in the 1940’s still exist, but I doubt that many of them get much alumni support; and I am fairly certain that few 21st Century public schools have grateful alumni associations. I suspect there are many advocates of certain LA public schools who would gladly help raze them to the ground.
One reason these schools are so awful is the subject of yesterday’s entry, the “mainstreaming” of severely handicapped students. If the justification of tax supported public schools is that they provide an education and are now collecting, with interest, for services rendered, then it’s pretty clear that requiring the paying customers to endure constant interruptions and absorption of teacher time by severely handicapped pupils who have been mainstreamed is theft.
Comes now the question of whose responsibility it is to do something for the severely handicapped. That is not an investment question. Perhaps it should be: perhaps the question ought to be, what education can we provide these children that will help them earn at least some of the money needed for their support? But if that is the question, it’s pretty clear that the answer will be training in skills appropriate to the handicap, and that is going to be quite different from what is taught to the general student body.
As to whose obligation it is, historically it has been the children’s parents with charity as first backup and the local community — parish or county – as secondary backup. It is certainly not part of the powers and duties of the Federal Government as detailed in the Constitution of 1789 as Amended.
Now it can be argued that the communities don’t do enough. They don’t meet the needs, and therefore it is up to the general government to be generous – not with its own money, of course, but with money forcibly extracted by the tax collector backup up by the BATF and Federal executioners if needed. Of course it is easy to be ‘charitable’ with other people’s money. It is easy enough for A and B to work together to determine what C must give to destitute D. That does not justify anyone having charitable feelings about the matter of course.
But the hidden question is, what has this done for the handicapped? Some benefit by mainstreaming. Indeed it might be shown that it is beneficial to the rest of the class to have some examples of handicapped people among them, so as to learn proper ways of treating them. Education is more than just book learning. But there are limits to that, and just about everyone who studies the situation objectively agrees, it’s easy enough to so saturate a class with mainstreamed pupils who really ought not be there as to detract from the education of everyone else in the class. This means that most of the students are not getting the education they need, and it is not a long leap to suspect that this will result in higher costs of training for employers, and over time a general lessening of productivity. And with lower productivity there are fewer resources to be applied to the good of the handicapped. It may be a great favor to those mainstreamed, but it is not necessarily a great favor to the next generation of students, handicapped or not.