February 16, 2007

I'm a rich, white, retired guy. Why the hell should I pay for other people to get an education?

This is just disgusting. Some douchebag in Arizona -- one Patrick Flynn -- successfully established a new school district for his exurb that will have no schools, teachers, or students, just so his property taxes wouldn't increase about $1.50 per $100 of property value. (That's about $7,500 for a $500k house.) The children in the new school district will continue to attend schools in nearby districts, but their parents will now be required to pay for tuition.

Economists who look at pollution often talk about externalities. An externality is a cost or benefit from a transaction that benefits some third party. In the pollution case, the externalities are the negative effects of the pollution and the cost of cleaning it up, which are typically not bourne by the factories who, say, dump toxic waste into a river that feeds a drinking water reservoir.

In most states, the social benefits of public education are not an externality. Everyone pays property taxes either directly (actually owning their home) or indirectly (their landlord increases the rent), so everyone helps pay for all children to get an education at a public school; there are no third parties to the property tax-education funding series of transactions. In the case of Patrick Flynn and his school-free school district, though, he and the other residents of the district without minor children enjoy the benefits of public education without paying for it. The benefits of public education become an externality.

Externalities are typically egregious violations of economic justice. In the pollution case, you can be sure the owners of the polluting factory are wealthier than the people who are going to get cancer from contaminated drinking water, and (without Superfund laws) are wealthier than the taxpayer who's paying the cleanup bill. The Christopher Verde School District is no different: instead of paying their fair share, Flynn and other wealthy retirees are forcing young families -- who come to exurbs because they can actually afford to buy a house, not because they can afford a 3,000 square foot McMansion -- to shoulder all the costs of educating their children, in the form of tuition paid to neighbouring school districts.

The article opens with these two sentences: `Just to be clear, Patrick Flynn says he loves public education. He just does not like the idea of paying for it.' This absolutely reeks of class privilege. Patrick Flynn doesn't like the idea of rich people like himself paying for public education. He's fine with levying a de facto regressive property tax to pay for public education.

1 comment:

MosBen said...

Man, what a total douche.