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We Can't Tax Our
Way to Better Schools

by Dan Steninger

embers of the Nevada State Board of Education recently decided against taking a stand on the plan to levy an income tax on the state's businesses. The extra revenue, according to the Nevada State Education Association teacher union, would be used for more teachers, more state-paid teacher training, higher teacher pay and classroom supplies.

The plan involves circulating an initiative petition among Nevada residents calling for a 5 percent tax on any profits a Nevada business might make. While the state board can't come to a decision on the wisdom of circulating such a petition, I welcome the idea-I want to know how many residents are dumb enough to sign it. It will be a good measure of how far the teacher union has come in its master plan to create a whole society of mindless, taxpaying drones lacking even the most rudimentary reasoning abilities. It's information that would be useful to those interested in the progress of our society's decline.

Perhaps the results of the petition will jolt enough people that the drive to separate school and state will finally take off.

An income tax to pay for more public school teachers. Give me a break. Here's a way of looking at it that probably hasn't occurred to the teacher union: The quality of graduates is on a continuous decline. How do we know that? Because colleges and businesses have to continuously increase their budgets for remedial classes (for colleges) and crash courses in the basics of math and English needed to function in a job (for businesses). And do those responsible apologize? Hell no, they want to add a new tax onto businesses, the entities that have to pick up the slack.

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation estimates the nation's colleges and universities spend more than a billion dollars a year on remedial classes, or, in the words of foundation President Chester Finn Jr., the double-billing of the taxpayer: "first, for the elementary and secondary schools that didn't do the job they were supposed to, and then for the colleges to rectify the situation." So, does the state teacher union want to slap colleges with a new tax, too?

Part of the union pitch for a Nevada income tax is that Nevada ranks 41st in expenditures per pupil. What the union doesn't mention is that we could triple the pay of the teachers, put a new computer on every desk and flood the schools with pencils and books-thus vaulting Nevada up to the number one rank in per-pupil spending-and not a darn thing would change.

What has been discovered over the past several years, as the nation tries to come to grips with the problems in its schools, is there's not much, if any, connection between the money thrown at the problem of declining student performance and that performance.

It also has been discovered that there are a multitude of factors that actually do have something to do with negative student performance, including the forced attendance of large numbers of students who would be better off (as would their classmates) if they were somewhere other than the local high school; cutting out basic curriculum to fit in large volumes of nonacademic material; and just the basic fact that there are no rewards for success and in fact incentives (more tax money) for failure.

Now, which one of these factors is going to be influenced by paying teachers more, hiring more teachers and training already-hired teachers (which brings up the question of why there were hired in the first place)? That's right-not a one.

We don't need more money in education. We need to spend our money more wisely. When enough people figure that out, it will be a small step to remind them that smart spending is not exactly the hallmark of government; and that if there is a job to do, it's a safe bet that somebody other than a bureaucrat ought to be doing it.

Penalizing businesses for making a profit is not going to improve the schools. Getting the government out of the education business will bring that improvement. How can we be sure? Simple: Those schools that don't improve won't turn a profit. Profits-for those teacher union officials out there-tell us what is working and what isn't. They are not indicators of undertaxation. NJ

Dan Steninger (dsten@cyberhighway.net ) is editorial page editor of the Elko Daily Free Press.


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