Education: will another tax solve the problem?


Education is a very contentious issue, of course; and it will remain so – and any ‘solutions’ put forth to solve the problem is is only a bandaid, a flimsy mask placed over the real problem.

It is again relevant because of the State Question which will be coming up for a vote on a one cent sales tax, the purpose is “funding education” as it always seems to be with new taxes.

Most voters seem to agree that education is the most important function of the state government, and that the system is in some way “broken” but no one can really say, with authority, exactly how it is broken.  The “solutions” given to us always have something to do with money – and how to get more tax revenue out of the citizens to fund an inherently broken system.

Constantly we hear about teacher pay raises, and how that will somehow fix the problem.  While I will never dispute the important role that good teachers play in a society, it should be noted that teaching is just another form of labor, at least from an economic perspective.  Labor like all other things is just a commodity, and is therefore subject to the natural and inevitable economic laws, most notably that of supply and demand.  Pardon me, but the qualifications to be a teacher in this state aren’t exactly strenuous; some form of college degree and a teaching certification are quite sufficient.  We know that there are a limited number of teaching positions available, and because supply outweighs demand, we should not be surprised if the salaries offered for such positions aren’t glamorous.

Besides, already the the price of labor of teaching in a public school is quite inflated; a teacher at a private school could seldom hope to receive the kind of money that public school teachers receive.

But a teacher pay raise sounds really good, right?

More money “to the classroom” sounds really good, right?

More money to “higher education” sounds really good, right?

To most, and most likely to the majority, this sort of rhetoric is music to the ears.  However, we find that it’s very old music; for decades, politicians have been playing it looking to gain votes, capitalizing on a genuine issue.  Solutions are promised, always in the form of a tax increase – and those “solutions” never have any long term effect.

That is the point, isn’t it?  If we discovered a magical way to solve the education problem permanently, do you think it would ever be implemented?  The honest Oklahoma politicians would avoid it, I think – both parties would loose an easy excuse to raise taxes.

Goodness, have we such short memories?  What about the horse race betting tax, the liquor tax, the lottery?  Weren’t those supposed to bring public education sufficient funds?   Let’s say this tax gets passed, and we have one of the highest sales tax rates in the nation, but our education has funding – for the present.  What will it be in a couple of years?  This tax will be forgotten, along with the rest!  Again we will hear cries for “more funding!  More!”

Even more damning, there is no correlation at all between increased funding and higher standardized test scores (According to Steve Fair’s excellent article for The Okie, linked below.)

But what are we talking about, test scores?

I asked, how exactly is the education system broken?  What is wrong with it?

Well, that’s part of it.  Standardized tests we groan about, but what about all tests?  We complain of “teaching to tests” because it doesn’t teach critical thinking (which is true) but wouldn’t that apply to all tests, exams, quizzes, etc.?

Why do we tolerate the educational straightjacket that is placed on all students from day one?  The curriculum’s, the system of grades, the arbitrary standards which stifle and destroy a student’s natural curiosity – THIS is the problem.  Our education system will forever be “broken” until these things are addressed.  Throwing more money at it is not an effective solution in any way.  Simply, we need freedom of education.  

This is more than the ramblings of a disillusioned student.  In order to “fix” the system, there would have to be trans-formative changes to everything we know about education, and this is bigger than any politician or state government.  Certainly, it will be bigger than giving teachers a slight raise and lining David Boren’s pockets with public money.




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