Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Public Education: Is One Hundred Fifty Dollars A Year Too Much to Support Learning?


The State of Oregon ranks 31st and falling in per capita spending on primary and secondary public education.  Just recently the major town that I live near,  Medford (population roughly 100,000) had to cut 4 million dollars out of their two year budget for schools.  The result has been shorter class days in school, teacher layoffs and courses in arts and other subjects cut out completely. Other local school districts have been cut to the bone. Another nine million might be cut soon if the voters don't approve two Measures on the January ballot. 

In an effort to shore up the schools, the Democratic controlled state legislature passed initiatives to end the ten dollar a year minimum that corporations pay to the state.  Now it will go up for most corporations to 150 dollars a year.  Incredibly some million dollar corporations have paid only ten dollars a year even today. (The original "tax" was set in 1931!)


In case you're wondering if businesses in Oregon are already paying lots of money to government in taxes, consider this report from the Willamette Weekly Newspaper (Salem, Oregon).

 "In a 2008 national study of corporate taxes, the Ernst & Young auditing firm found that the largest chunk of taxes businesses pay is property tax, followed by sales taxes. Corporate income tax was a distant third. In Oregon, businesses pay moderate property taxes, no sales tax and a middling corporate income tax rate, all of which make their overall tax burden among the lowest in the nation. Ernst & Young found that Oregon’s tax burden on businesses is the second lowest in the country. Critics of 67 dispute the Ernst & Young study. “We think the methodology is wrong and it leaves out some things,” says Pat McCormick, a spokesman for the “no” side. It’s worth noting the Legislative Revenue Office was comfortable enough with the Ernst & Young study to have relied on it in its November analysis of the tax measures."   

Even a company making $500,000 in Oregon sales would still only pay $150 dollars a year in taxes!

The income of those making 125,000 dollars as a single person and 250,000 dollars a family will also rise slightly.  The vast majority of the extra funds will go to education, health services, and public safety.  Yet, there is a movement amongst business groups to try and defeat even these modest increases in the long-term good of the state.    On January 26, the votes in the mail-in ballot election will be counted and we will find out if their trickle-down arguments carry the day or if more teachers will be laid off and more children will do without a quality education when they need it most in a globalized economy. 

If you know of similar initiatives in your state or country, I'd like you to ad your thoughts to the matter of decent public education  funding.    Here's' the nuts and bolts of the initiatives, from "The Oregonian" Newspaper, published in Portland:    


Measure 66
Sets new tax brackets: 10.8 percent for taxable income between $250,000 and $500,000 for joint or household filers, and between $125,000 and $250,000 for single filers; 11 percent rate for income of more than $500,000 for joint filers and $250,000 for single filers. In 2012, top tax rate drops to 9.9 percent.

Phases out federal tax subtraction for adjusted gross income of $250,000 or more for joint filers and $125,000 for single filers.
Exempts first $2,400 of unemployment benefits from 2009 taxes.
Raises an estimated $469 million in 2009-11.

Measure 67
Sets higher corporate minimum taxes: $150 for S corporations and partnerships; sliding scale for C corporations, ranging from $150 for corporations with less than $500,000 in Oregon sales up to $100,000 for sales of more than $100 million.
Sets new corporate tax bracket: 7.9 percent for profits of more than $250,000 for 2009-10, 7.6 percent for 2011-12.
Raises an estimated $258 million in 2009-11.

Its worth noting that many states adopted a state income tax during the Great Depression, including Oregon, to try and pay for needed services.  This is not a radical move, and that that so far looks like it just might pass depending on undecided voters.  



  1. hopefully we are beginning to wake up....the old beliefs of trickle down economics and the rich exemption of taxes are starting to be reconsidered.

    ups sorry for the capitols -

  3. "Trickle-down economics" and "trickle-down theory" are terms of political rhetoric that refer to the policy of providing tax cuts or other benefits to businesses in the belief that this will indirectly benefit the broad population.

  4. shools have always gotten the short shrift on money forever -not just in the last few years-it is the way the laws are set up rich neighborhoods get more poor get less change that and you might get somewhere-

  5. The privileged tax position of companies in Oregon is I think a symptom of a much deeper malaise that is rapidly reaching crisis point in the US and other capitalist economies.

    The worldwide economic depression created by artificial bubbles has reached the point of no return, unregulated capitalism, gangster banking cartels and imperial military ambitions have destroyed the economies of the United States, Britain and other allied corporatocracies like Canada and Australia.
    What your article here and the videos that accompany it demonstrate to me is that the crimes against humanity routinely perpetrated by the US and its allies have finally come home to roost.

    The economic warfare that has accompanied military gamesmanship over the past 60 + years (since Bretton Woods) has been roundly defeated and the dollar has been ousted as the global currency and is now in free fall.
    The Anglo-American empire has failed, the US and its allies have lost the war and these aggressive globalising failed states are now in unstoppable, accelerating and terminal decline.

    They are incapable of reform and globalising gangster capitalism is no a longer viable way of doing business.
    I think the very first step must be to acknowledge these unhappy facts and we as bankrupt and defeated societies must turn our urgent attention to damage limitation measures.

    Oregon's worst enemies are of course the White House, the Fed and Wall Street and now like everywhere else that these rapacious regimes have decimated with their psychopathic greed and corruption, Oregon must attempt to find urgent local solutions to the crisis which is growing ever deeper and more intractable under the mismanagement of the Obama regime.

    Since America doesn't really exist any longer thanks to the secret deals done under the rubric of the North American Union, it will be no real loss to acknowledge this fact and for states to secceed from the Union and attempt to manage the fallout locally and in opposition to the US federal government.

    Balkanisation is I think the only answer to America's problems and attempts by states to do their own deals with the victors of this ongoing war (China, India, Brazil and the OPEC countries) is the only way forward. It is globalisation of sorts I think, but 'not as we know it Jim'

  6. hey if we can spend billions on 2 wars and now maybe 3 why can't we fund our public schools?

  7. I think the answer is in the question starfishred

  8. There is a lot of funding cuts been going on over here by our flash new government but I can just imagine the public outcry were schools to cut their teaching hours down. Nobody would dare to do that here. State schools here are funded from central government from general taxes and they are all required to teach the nationally approved curriculum (they may add extras if they want but they can take nothing away) and required to be open a set amount of hours every year. Any "private" schools who get government funding subsidies (from taxpayers money) must abide by the same conditions.

    I find it quite unbelievable that a technologically advanced country like the US would play silly buggers with their kids education like this. I would have expected a national standard to be set re hours and curriculum even though your schools are not run centrally like ours. Education is just too important for this kind of tomfoolery.

    Corporations/businesses aren't generally involved in our education system apart from indirectly via whatever general taxes hey have paid. However in recent years some businesses have voluntarily sponsored a state school in their area - there is a well known trucking firm that put in so much into their local school (not just money but things like new coats or shoes) that the school voluntarily changed their name to include the firms name.

    Other companies have been known to donate food to supply school breakfasts for kids in schools in poorer areas who might not otherwise have had breakfast. Of course individuals often do this sort of thing too, not just businesses.

    These things happen because for the most part (despite our recent flash new government) we value our kids and their education highly.

    So it will probably be quite obvious by now that I think you businesses whinging about paying a mere $150 per annum towards the kid's education instead of a disgustingly low $10 to be completely selfish, very mean and also very short-sighted. A few years down the line, these companies are going to be looking to find bright well-educated youth to employ - if there are none whose fault will it be.

  9. There are always going to be people wanting to pay less taxes, however in any survey done here people have always indicated they are happy to pay taxes as long as it means better education for our kids and also better health care for all.

  10. The part that always mystifies me, whenever school funding issues crop up, is that every cent invested in education cuts the cost of the police/justice system. This is a known fact, but nobody seems to be able to look far enough ahead to see that you aren't actually spending any more, it's just going to a different budget.


    They need mothers running the world.

  11. I think cuts in education are sheer madness. Learning is so important in shaping youngsters, that I don't think they should be allowed in that direction. We in the UK have heard that student loans will be cut and there are going to be fewer university places. I am furious about this. We educate to a certain standard and if someone has reached the stage where they have to look for a placing, it should be there for them without a big struggle. Don't mess with children's education. Our governments soon find the cash when there is something dear to their hearts. Just where does that cash suddenly appear from?

  12. We've tried that, but it didn't work either

  13. Let's hope so Mike. The anti-tax crowd has lost some of their appeal, but I'm certain they will throw money at this like crazy.

  14. Human nature does seem to work that way, Heidi--although you or I don't have lobbyists prowling the halls of state or federal legislatures looking for ways to shift tax burdens onto other groups. But I do get your point.

  15. I think that is a great idea. They have tried to do that in some states over here, like Texas, and its usually defeated by the idea that local control is best. The irony is that when funding of schools gets too low for poor neighborhoods, many say "let the state government fix it."

  16. I can say that you're sadly all too close to the truth here: "economic royalism" is alive and well in the state of Oregon and has been stripped of its ermine robes in the wake of this latest economic Wall Street-engineered morass. The victims are indeed those least able to defend themselves. One way to limit the damage is to stop subsidizing businesses for using roads and law enforcement and other services in exchange for providing a few jobs here and there.

    Decisions should be made, as the Native-American adage goes, with an eye on how it will effect the seventh generation of people to come. We have elected over here too many people too beholden to big money and allowed campaigns to become fat-cat lotteries. Is it any wonder that sowing short-term gains for a few have led us to a bitter harvest? This is not the America I grew up in, where education was taken more seriously. Perhaps we need to get the Soviet Union up and running again to provide military and economic anxiety throughout the land and spur people to promote taxation in the interest of the greater good.

  17. Now off to work--thanks for your comments everyone! I'll be back to finish my responses soon.

  18. The resistence to federal supervision of public education is a time-honored bit of American tom- foolery, Iri Ani, one I find equally baffling. Schools have mainly been a locally controlled arena, given some state funds but overseen by school boards. Individual states do establish some basic standards, but these have eroded by the cuts in education.

    A seperate Department of Education in Washington wasn't established until 1977 and it was almost dissolved under the Regan Adminstration. George W. Bush started a "No Child Left Behind" program that received some Democratic support. But many teachers have complained that the program simply requires teachers to "teach to the tests" that the Feds demand to measure progress in troubled schools. The plan is, as with most Republican plans, very stingy in aid and has morphed into the usual attacks on teacher salaries and unions where the Democrats hold some electoral advantages.

    Obama's Adminstration has promoted a "Race to the Top" education reform system. This comes with $4.3 billion in support and improves, in my opinion, the One-Size-Fits-All Bush plan by evaluation more geared toward student performance as a whole, not just on standardized tests.
    But it has its detractors, both with some teachers who do not want to be held so accountable for total clas performance and the usual conservative suspects. The federal budget is still puny considering that education should be a national priority as it is in NZ.

    As you state, this whole stinginess amongst some business leaders is absurd. These are the same types who will complain when they can't find qualified workers.
    Some companies in America do give to higher education programs, but less so to the primary and secondary system.

    A far-right business solution is usually to privatize the school system (and pay teachers less money) and other such measures that play into the normal conservative mantra that public education is too expensive and no tax should ever be passed anyway because no matter what the situation taxes are always too high in the first place.

    Thanks for filling me in on the programs in your part of the world.

  19. Yes, they never have to hold a bake sale or a raffle to send soldiers to war do they, Cassandra? It's rather the same here, perhaps a bit worse.

    I was lucky my school years in California and Florida (for a time) were from roughly 1965 to the early 80's, an era mostly before the major anti-tax movement began. I had excellent state primary and secondary schools to attend and when I finished high school, my four and one half years in community and state college in California were financially very reasonable--I only had to buy my own books for classes and pay a small fee per unit.

    I was a full-time student and the whole schedule of classes for a semester cost me only about $300.00. Today, teenagers and adults going back to school in more and more states (including California and of course Oregon) have to take out big student loan burdens or join the National Guard or work full-time while going to school as they can just to get the same opportunities I did working only part-time with little stress other than my grades.

    Seeing how students in California are practically rioting to try and call attention to the major fees increases for public universities, I feel rather guilty now.

    "Don't Mess With Children's Education". :-) I wish I could write that in indelible ink on some people's foreheads!

    !t's so wrong to burn the ropes to higher learning, and make others pay and sacrifice for something my generation didn't have to. I owe a lot to my teachers (most of them anyway) and no way will I ever forget that.

  20. Yes, as Jesse Jackson said a while ago, its better and cheaper to keep kids in school than pay for them to languish in prison or run through the justice or the welfare system. Right on Melanie!.

  21. One would think that education take a predominant area Doug. I think that it's one area that should take the main front. I read all of these posts and this is probably the most important areas within any given country as far as the amount that a government spends towards it. I think it could be much more I want to look at some stats but I just logged on a while ago. The future lays within education, when you pull back in this areas it has that trickle down effect.

  22. You're right Jack. And this is all the more reason that we review outmoded tax laws and revamp them to face the strugglesahead with employment. It was just revealed that in the last ten years the USA has produced a net increase of zero (as in ZERO) new jobs. If someone can't make public funding of education a top priority, then they need to get out of the way for the sake of the rest of the public.