Monday, January 28, 2013

Take Your Local Politicians To Task On Vouchers

This may be a news flash for a few people. Your local public schools are supported primarily through local and state taxes, not federal taxes, unless you live on a Native American reservation or a military installation. If this should happen to not be the case, there is a serious problem with your local school board and your understanding of the Tenth Amendment.

What this means is that you are paying for those schools. If you are not, then you are leeching on those who are.

Some areas pay for public education through property taxes. Others through a state level income tax. Some even have a sales tax. Usually, there is some combination of these. In the case of San Antonio, TX, it is primarily property taxes and local sales taxes that pay for municipal programs such as the local independent school districts and some infrastructure functions.

In November, Mayor Fidel Junior Julian Castro and his socialist tyrant cronies managed to eek out a scant majority by referendum to increase the city's sales tax. The tax increase was allegedly earmarked to provide for full-time preschool babysitters in public schools. A study had shown that attendance was low for these programs. Interest was low in many neighborhoods. So, he wanted a tax increase propagandized to provide for babysitters and facilities in the local schools that would provide the full-time services that parents weren't using anyway. The median pay and benefits packages for these new babysitters is $70k a year.

Castro got his wish. He raised taxes "for the kids". Now it is time for him to put our money where his socialism-spewing mouth is. If this money is "for the kids", then it is time to set up a voucher program. If parents choose to enroll their preschooler in a private daycare program that offers head-start education equal to or above that which is provided in the public schools (not hard to do) or parents choose to home-school their kids instead of making them wards of "the village", then parents should get vouchers. Those vouchers should be equal to the estimated per-student cost of the program in the public schools.

Now, should this be enacted, Castro will start crying. He will complain that too many people are taking the vouchers and the city cannot afford the public school programs. Well, if the schools are not providing the services that the customers (parents) are paying for (through taxes), then they should be allowed to fire those substandard programs.

Now for a twist of irony. Castro and his communist cronies are now campaigning for a streetcar system in San Antonio. This will allegedly bolster the failing local, public mass-transit system, VIA. By and large, every proposal for "light rail" or streetcars has come with a misleading price-tag. The construction of these systems cost more than the systems could make in a decade. In order to break even, the fares would need to be so high that those who would benefit from the public transportation would not be able to afford them. If they set rates at what your average person would be willing to pay, they do not stand to make any revenue that could support the salaries of operators or maintenance crews. In fact, they wouldn't take in enough revenue to cover the construction costs.

The CATO institute has a great study on the costs versus benefits.

If there is a streetcar conspiracy, it is of politicians and contractors seeking to spend taxpayer dollars building frivolous and obsolete streetcar lines in today’s cities. (The Great Streetcar Conspiracy by Randal O’Toole, CATO Institute, )

Metro-Atlanta, GA looked at expanding streetcars in and around that city. When faced with the price-tag, they attempted to increase taxes to cover the costs. The T-SPLOST referendum was shot-down overwhelmingly. It was a waste of money that the citizens did not want nor did they want to pay for. The benefits do not outweigh the costs.

The proposal does not have much support in San Antonio. Even the relatively left-wing biased MySA printed another of O'Toole's studies. They support O'Toole's proposal of using the funds to fix other infrastructure such as the city streets, first.

So, where will Castro get his funding from for his proposed future fiscal fiasco in San Antonio?  Well, he got away with raising local sales taxes to support his doomed-to-fail pre-K program. Residents fell for that fleecing. He will either propose raising taxes, again, or he will propose redistributing the increased revenue from the pre-K sales tax increase.

While your vote at the polls is your main means of holding politicians accountable, it is not your only means. Write your city councilmen. Write your county and state representatives. It's time to demand that those taxes you pay for education are used to educate your children as you think best. It is time for vouchers or tax rebates and a school choice program. Don't let them use those "targeted revenues" for other pork projects. If not used for your kids, tell them to give it back so that you can use it for your kids' education.

It isn't "the city's money". It isn't "the state's money". It isn't "the school district's money". It is YOUR money. You are paying for services. If you aren't getting them, demand a refund!