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Removing "Woke" from Public Schools
Allowing taxpayers to allocate their school property tax dollars for private school scholarships would force public schools to change.
During the Covid-19 period, many school-aged children were forced to attend classes remotely. As a result, parents saw the crazy content being pushed on their children at government (public) schools. They realized many teachers were not well versed in the subjects they were teaching and that their children were wasting hours each day doing “almost nothing”.
At that point, citizens began pushing for more control of school curriculum and teacher preparation. They also expected more teacher and school accountability.
Parents quickly learned that it was very challenging to make public schools responsive since these schools have no incentive to change. Specifically, a public school system can continue to operate in exactly the same way, because the funding does not depend on student performance or alignment with the wishes of the parents.
To make public schools more responsive, citizens need direct ways of controlling the budget. Specifically, if public schools start teaching material or presenting material in ways that are not in line with what families want, parents need a way to allocate their tax dollars to schools that are better aligned.
If you are going to have a public subsidy to education, vouchers are clearly a better way of delivering it. They should result in some loosening up and privatization of the government school system. — Peter Brimelow
Arizona has a well regarded program that allows parents to do just that. Parents can receive tax credits for donations to private school scholarship funds.
South Dakota could easily implement a similar program. This small step would pressure public schools to become more aligned with parents’ wishes if they don’t want to lose tax revenue. However, for this to be effective, South Dakota would have to stop the “opt out” provision that allows public schools to increase taxes whenever they have a shortfall.
In South Dakota, public schools are funded by a combination of local property taxes, state sales and other taxes and fees, and federal grants. As a result, it is difficult to understand how the funding works by looking at the state as a whole.
As a result, we will dissect the largest school district in the state, the Sioux Falls School District, to see what would happen if taxpayers were allowed to specify how their property taxes are used.
During the 2022-2023 school year there were 24,361 students enrolled in the Sioux Falls School District.
The total budget for that school year was almost $315 million (see page 13). This means it costs taxpayers almost $13,000 to educate each student. Interestingly it costs Bishop O’Gorman between $4000 and $8000 to educate a student (approximate numbers).
The District collected almost $306 million in funds from taxpayers:
• more than $143 million from property taxes (see page 13) from school district residents and businesses. These taxes were collected by the county and distributed to the school district. Based on the tax allocations provided by the auditor’s office, around 40% of the property taxes go to fund public schools.
• almost $121 million from sales and other taxes (see page 13). These taxes were collected by the state and distributed to the school district.
• more than $34 million from federal government grants (see page 13). The money for these grants came from federal income tax collections. There are strict requirements on how this money is used and what has to be included in the curriculum to accept these funds. So woke standards from the Feds mean there is pressure to have woke standards in local schools.
Now consider what would happen if the Sioux Falls School District taxpayers chose to allocate one quarter of their preK-12 education property tax dollars to private school scholarships.
The Sioux Falls public school budget would be reduced by about $36 million per year. Losing that much money would mean the district would finally be forced to align the curriculum and teaching with parents wishes rather than pushing their own agenda.
Of course, the public schools will complain about how unfair it is for taxpayers to decide how their money is spent. We need to remember that the future of our children is far more important than their attacks.
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