Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Some Hope for the School Aid Fund

Anna at our home beach, down the road at Schneider Beach on Lake Leelanau.

One of the excuses for delaying action on Michigan's School funding is to blame the problem on the state's weak economy. The school aid fund is partially fed by sales tax revenues and when people spend less they contribute less in the way of sales taxes. However, acknowledging that a weak economy has helped get us here is not the same as saying it is the only thing that got us here, or that we need to wait to act until the economy improves.

Education jobs are jobs. People employed in schools in Michigan generally spend their paychecks in Michigan. Our state is more than willing to subsidize manufacturing jobs with tax breaks. If we have to lay teachers off to give those tax breaks, then the economy has not gained an inch but education has suffered. How much better would it be to pump tax money into education, reviving the economy in the short run and creating , in the long term, the sort of highly educated workforce that will attract the high tech industries of the future.

Another aspect of the emerging high tech economy is cause for some hope. Sales tax revenues have been falling in recent years because more business is being done through internet and mail order sales, where sales tax is not collected. Last week Michigan joined 17 other states in establishing a network for collection of sales tax on internet transactions. While there is no Silver Bullet for school aid reform , it is a hopeful step in the right direction.

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