Great post Jon. You ask, “Is it worth giving a windfall to land speculators in order to get more equitable funding for education?” I would answer that by saying to create a matrix and rank the combinations. Here goes, in order of desirability:
1. Perfect tax, equitable distribution
2. Imperfect tax, equitable distribution
3. Perfect tax, inequitable distribution
4. Imperfect tax, inequitable distribution
1 and 4 are obvious, but I believe that equitable distribution triumphs over perfect taxation. This article by Mason Gaffney explains why http://www.wealthandwant.com/docs/Gaffney_Cannan.html. Quite simply, even a perfect tax like [the land value tax] can provide inequities if there is a lack of recognition of what LVT is supposed to be remedying. Namely, the problem is one of walling off value by landowners. The whole institution of private property is dedicated to this concept and LVT seeks to combat it.
But if the local governments themselves act as private landlord corporations and wall off value from citizens (both landowning and not) that reside outside a rich jurisdiction, they themselves are acting like rich landlords. This is why 2 is better than 3. Rich cities/districts have a larger tax base regardless of the tax system, so putting a wall around their tax base serves to perpetuate who does and who does not have resources.
This is why your argument to have an equitable funding formula for public education and for a statewide property tax makes sense: not only will value not be kept by richer districts by using a state LVT, the benefits will also not be disbursed to the rich districts since the LVT receipts will go out equitably and outside the richer districts.
Everybody is used to the property tax being a local tax, but there’s no actual reason the state couldn’t also choose to pay for state services with a land value tax. Most states used to have a state-level property tax and the property tax is still part of the mix in some states. In addition to being more equitable, another advantage this would have is taking the decision to assess away from counties and putting the state in charge of regular reassessments. This should not be a discretionary decision at the county level, it needs to be mandatory and predictable.