Already Weakening the Rhetoric

I preferred David Anderson’s press release to this concession, made even before he’s won office:

… David Anderson, the Republican challenging House Majority Leader Gordon Fox, in Providence, said he would consider higher income and sales taxes if that is what was required to reduce local property taxes, and shift more of the responsibility for financing the state’s public schools to state taxpayers.
“Especially in my district, the [property tax] is very unpopular because Brown University and other nonprofits don’t pay anything for the services they get for their properties. I would fund education at the state level … We may have to have higher state-level taxes, income and sales taxes, but I would not change the tax structure in such a way as to raise overall taxes.”

By pushing the tax burden toward the state, you decrease the voters’ proximity to the levers of power, making reform movements less likely. By centralizing education financing (and therefore control), you give more leverage to entrenched forces, like the unions.
The challenge right now is waking up and educating Rhode Island’s citizens. Creating a buffer and moving to tax to less visible forms — property tax is unique in that people know the total amount for the year, whereas withholding, refunds, etc. muddy the income tax, and nobody knows what they pay in sales tax — will allow the powers who be to perpetuate their habits.

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David Anderson
15 years ago

Let me try to explain why public education, in its broadest sense being that of publicly funded education, should be financed at the state level.
Constitutionally, I believe education to be a state responsibility- not a federal nor a local responsibility.
As an advocate of parental choice through either vouchers or refundable tax-credits, those are state level financed grants. It is the requirement that a student’s funding follow that student that gives truly local control to the parents.
This does not preclude reform occurring locally. In fact, a full-fledged parental choice system would most likely lead to a growing private education sector and a shrinking public or government school sector.
Finally, let me say that I’m to the “right” of Milton Friedman on this. He favored universal vouchers in which the stipend was the same regardless of family income. I favor means tested vouchers as I believe that gives the government the least financial involvement in the schools and therefore the least leverage on their operations.

Justin Katz
15 years ago

That’s all reasonable, David, but we can’t lose sight of the playing field as it exists, nor the players on it. Pull everything toward the state level, and they’ll corrupt it there.
There’s no reason vouchers can’t be implemented from the bottom (town) up (state).

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