School funding system is broken

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The recent announcement by the Natchez-Adams School District that it would seek an increase in property taxes to fund budget shortfalls caused by the state has caused the usual round of anti-tax rhetoric and public school bashing. Healthy debate is good; a hallmark of our democracy, but the real problem is not being discussed.

The NASD is in this position because of the current, seriously faulty system used to fund public schools in the United States. The current system relies heavily on local property taxes and token funds from the state to pay for public education. The federal government pitches in even less. This leads to unequal funding for school districts across the country. The current system, though not racially motivated, has led to the same inequalities in school funding.

In 1995 I taught in rural Scott County and earned just over $20,000 per year. I make more here in Natchez. Why? Property values are much lower in a rural area than in a city like Natchez, leading to low property tax revenues with which to fund schools. In areas with more than one school district, the districts in poorer neighborhoods receive less funding than those in more affluent neighborhoods.

This unfair system of funding education must stop. The federal government places one mandate after another on our schools, but plays a small part in providing funds. The federal government must become the primary source of funding for our schools, using a formula insuring equal funding for all districts, or we will be having this discussion for years to come.

Shawn Smith

Natchez resident