Proposed Tax Increase For Education

The New Mexico legislature has announced that it will be decreasing government funding across the state, which will effect spending on public schools. This has created an uproar among many people who believe that the solution to our education problem here in New Mexico is to give more money to schools. Toward the end of last year members of the New Mexico education board proposed a so-called solution, a one percent gross receipts tax increase to help aid public school funding.
Unfortunately, the only thing that the tax increase will do is create more of a tax burden on New Mexicans and New Mexico-based businesses during difficult economic times. Despite the money which the state plans to spend on government schools, study after study has found little to no correlation between better education and more government funding.
It’s easy to understand why it would be popular to increase education funds; more money should mean more books, better teacher pay, better facilities, and an overall better education. The problem within New Mexico’s education system cannot be solved by an increase in taxes. Certainly a cracked desk or a leaky roof has never caused a child to under-perform. Change must come from somewhere other than an increased supply of government money. It must come from a school’s drive to improve its quality and the realization on the part of parents and students that the educational product being provided is extremely valuable. This is not currently the case.
One option for improving this situation is to offer tax credits to students in low-income families. Parents can utilize tax credits when they decide to place their child in a school that is either private or outside of their district. Although this means that a child may have to travel longer distances to get to school, the benefits outweigh the losses. In the end the child gets a better education. After all, parents would not make the extra effort to get their kids out of the government-run school (and pay a portion of the new school’s tuition) if they were not receiving a superior education.
This tax credit proposal, which has been introduced in the Legislature as SB 355 by Sen. Pete Campos (D), is a more optimal solution than the proposed increase in sales tax. Tax credits affect only those parents who are paying the school fees. Furthermore, it creates competition without privatization. Schools will have incentive to improve, because parents have more options. Although tax credits will not solve all of our public school’s problems, they are a step in the right direction without wasting still more tax dollars.
New Mexicans must shift away from the belief that more money necessarily means better education, toward the idea that a smart use of resources and planning can guarantee better results.