Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Public School Education, Tuition and Taxes

Dag makes the valid point that complaints by yeshiva parents that they are being "double taxed" is erroneous. I, however, would like to expand on his comments.

The expense of running public schools is a "burden" that the entire community pays for - not just those with children. Those who have children, those who never had children and all those whose children have long since grown up pay "tuition" to the public school system.

There is a valid reason for this - it is in the public's best interest to have the populace educated. It's not just a benefit to the parent - it's a benefit to society at large, since an educated populace is able to produce a better society than an ignorant one.

To state that people are "double taxed" because they are paying tution to private school is akin to someone saying that they don't want to pay "police taxes" because they have a private security guard.

Lastly, for all those parents who want to allow for opting out of payment for public services because they aren't using them, I would like to ask this question: Would you allow for someone to opt-out of paying for services for fire and ambulance because they were fortunate enough to not need them during the past year? Because doing so would lead to a situation where you would have to pay on a case-by-case basis for payment of these services. Would you want firemen to show up to your burning house and present you with a bill? Or would you like for the public ambulance service to ask you for your credit card number while they're taking a loved one to the hospital?

The bottom line is that we all benefit from these services even if we don't actively use them. For example: you may not need to call the police this year, but because the police were there when someone else called, a mugger who may have mugged you is now in prison. Likewise, you may not actively send your kids to public school (heck, you may not even have kids), but you use products and services created by public-school educated people. Your boss, co-workers or employees will probably be public-school educated people. Without the public school system, our economy and society would be markedly different from the way it is now - for the worse. As a result, we all benefit from the public schools and cannot shirk our civic responsibility to pay for these services even if we don't actually send our kids there.

The Wolf


Anonymous said...

I posted at DAG's and got to your comments. Right on! Education is a communal good. Our own community needs to take a page out of the American playbook and create a "tax base" for our own schools.

Unknown said...

I think a compromise can be reached, and perhaps this is what the voucher system does: Create a base amount from taxes that each family is paying into the public school system that must remain, with the rest permitted to be used toward private education. I don't see that there are complaints in Milwaukee (for example) that the voucher system has hurt the education in the public school system; if anything, it has lowered class sizes and improved the education even in the public schools.

Anonymous said...

Make the analogy fairer. What if the government provided non-kosher meals to everyone, paid for with tax dollars? The argument would then be “Please provide us with meals that our religion allows us eat, or please give us some tax credit for the dollars we spend on our own meals, thereby saving other taxpayers from having to provide for us.” I'm sure you would agree that the request would be a fair one. “Double taxes” may not be the best way to phrase the argument, but it clearly has some merit. By all means attack the poorly formulated whining, but please replace it with something stronger.

Anonymous said...

Nicely put, cute husband!

Orthoprax said...


Consider this: what would happen to the public school system in New York if every child in private school decided to enter his or her local public school? The whole system would implode. There's no way it can support that many students.

There's a certain amount of money that it costs the city to educate each child each year. If all the private school kids entered public school, that money would pay for their education, assuming the system could stay afloat.

Private schools are doing the city a _favor_ by reducing that student load. And all the parents are asking for is that some of the money that would have gone to their children's eduation if they had gone to public school be applied to their education in private school.

The parents, instead of burdening the city with their rightful cost of educating their children, are doing it privately. Doesn't it make sense that the city resume its rightful burden and pay for their children's education? It needn't pay the full cost of private school tuition, but whatever the balance would have been had the child gone to public school instead.

Anonymous said...

So maybe the Orthodox community of NYC should, in mass, enroll all of their children en masse in public school next year to force the money out of the public coffers, rather than wine about "double taxation?"

Anonymous said...


i friend of mine in new jersey told me that the jews in his town were considering this, but i don't know how serious they were.


no one knows whether or not they will need the police or an ambulance. but there are people who know they will never need the public schools.