American education has been under fire for about 30 years. Ever since the iconic report, A Nation at Risk illustrated the difficulties faced by parents and students in the education system and the way it would affect the future of the country, education has been in sharp political focus.
One of the ways education is broken is how it is funded. Public schools are often funded by property taxes. This means that the wealthier and area is, the more money available for schools, fire departments, police departments, and other services. This problem isn’t new either. White flight in the 1950s and 1960s pulled people out of inner cities and to the suburbs. However, due to discriminatory home loan practices black families were left out of this movement. This left black children in the inner cities. Even some Hispanic families were left out of home ownership due to their documentation status.
The school districts left behind had fewer property tax dollars as building owners were no longer able to rent out buildings and the buildings sat vacantly. The reduction of students also meant less money for these districts leaving them with fewer resources and disadvantaged students.
As illustrated in this PBS News Hour video, in Tennesee, a similar problem with the property tax system is happening again. The same problem is occurring again but rather than move to new neighborhoods, white, wealthy families are breaking away and forming their own school districts that exclude poorer people and people of color.
On its face, it seems like parents should be able to form a new school district if they want to but the reality is that when this happens, millions of dollars of tax revenue go along with them. This leaves the remaining school districts with budget shortfalls and draconian cutbacks to make up the difference.