Tax Base Segregation Is PA’s Most Secret and Evil Problem

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(The Intermediate Units should be the school districts)

Matthew Yglesias points us to a story out of Louisiana about a rich area of Baton Rouge trying to secede from a school district so that it doesn’t have to cross-subsidize poorer areas.

Matt makes the point that while people find this kind of overt segregation repugnant, the combination of catchment districts and exclusionary zoning basically does exactly the same thing in a lot of cities. And politicians who say they hate school segregation usually turn out to be uninterested in deregulating housing density in expensive catchments, to allow more new units to get built.

It’s a good point, and I’ll add that if you zoom out to the state level here in Pennsylvania, you’ll see that our 501 school districts for 67 counties empower our rich assholes to do exactly the thing Baton Rouge’s rich assholes are trying to get away with.

That’s why you see extremely unequal spending per pupil, with Lower Merion funding their students at more than double what Philadelphia and other central city kids get. “Local control” effectively means some people self-segregate in tony school districts and catchments, and the trade-off is that they pay more for school out of local property taxes.

If we shift the tax burden for schools to the state level – 50/50 as Katie McGinty and Tom Wolf have committed to doing – or to the Intermediate Unit level, then there’ll be more cross-subsidy for poor kids’ education by richer households.

This entry was posted in Miscellany.

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