Leave it to a Republican to call for an increase in property taxes. That’s exactly what State Senator Thom Goolsby (R-New Hanover) did. You see, Goolsby is blaming local governments for not ponying up enough money for public education. The only way county and municipal governments could afford to do that is to raise property taxes.
Goolsby is one of the legion of Republican legislators arguing that the GOP budget increased funding for public schools. Unfortunately, their argument flies in the face of local headlines across the state that indicate local school systems are facing steep budget cuts. So Goolsby’s answer is essentially, “Hey, we gave you plenty. If you think you need more go get it from your local government.”
But really, that’s a discussion worth having. And I think we should get some input from some his Republican colleagues. I wonder how they would like to tell their constituents that they need to start paying higher property taxes to fund public schools? And should we give school boards taxing authority like they do in New Jersey and other states? Just think, we could add an additional taxing authority in every county in the state. We could call it the Goolsby tax.
But first, let’s have a history lesson. During the Great Depression, the state of North Carolina took the responsibility for schools to alleviate crushing property taxes and to assure a minimum level of education in every county. And now, the state constitution guarantees children a “sound education” and makes the state responsible for providing it. In essence, we ask everybody in the state to assume responsibility of our kids’ education instead of telling the poorest counties that they’re on their own. It’s a progressive system, so Republicans of the Goolsby ilk hate it.
So what do you say, Sen. Hise? You think the folks in Mitchell County with 12% unemployment ought to get off the government teat and start paying for their own schools? What about you, Sen. Newton? Hell, if Rocky Mounty could get that Electricities thing worked out, folks would have tons of money they could throw into schools. And Sen. Rabon, don’t you think all those retirees in your district want to divert some of their greens fees to public schools?
To folks like Goolsby, public education is just another social program–a burden that takes money out of the pockets of hard working rich people. Even the John Locke Foundation recognizes that North Carolina pays less for education than 80% of the states. But they don’t see that as a problem. The GOP party line seems to be to tell those broke-ass counties out there to pay for their own damn schools.
The responsibility for adequately funding public schools lies with the legislature. Blaming local governments for the short fall is either ignorant or irresponsible. But if Goolsby and his crowd wants to change the funding equation, it will take a constitutional amendment. Until he’s ready to propose that, he needs to own up to his failings instead of trying to pass the buck.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >