Taxes Worsen Education Gap

By Grover Norquist

Federal education policy is nominally focuses resources on the most needy. Thus the Title I program sends nearly $9 billion to schools with low-income children.

But it turns out that what Washington gives with one hand, it takes with another.

Federal tax policy, it turns out, so greatly discriminates against the poor that the federal government ends up exacerbating inequality in education and, in effect, subsidizing property tax payments in districts with rich families.

According to an April 25 column by Richard Rothstein in The New York Times, it does through federal income tax policy. Here’s how it works.

Homeowners who itemize deductions — with rich families tending to do so far more than poor families — reduce their federal income taxes by a portion of their property tax payments.

“A family in the 28 percent bracket that pays $1,000 in local property taxes for public schools can deduct that payment on its income tax returns, reducing its income tax bill by $280,”Rothstein says. “Of the $1,000 going to schools, the family pays only $720 out of its earnings.”

When larger shares of property taxes are offset by federal income tax deductions, families are more willing to raise property levies for better schools.

Economists call these subsidies “tax expenditures” because they have the same effect as direct government spending. On balance, Rothstein writes, direct federal education outlays are mostly for poor children but these indirect, tax-related expenditures mostly benefit the rich. “And federal tax expenditures for schools exceed direct spending,” he writes.

Criminal Coverage

Media coverage of crime has little to do with reality. According to Facing South, a progressive news update from the Institute for Southern Studies and Southern Exposure magazine:

  • Percent that national crime rate dropped in the late 1990s: 20.
  • Percent that TV network coverage of crime increased during the 1990s: 83.
  • Percent of TV news stories concerning youth that are about youth violence: 53.
  • Percent of youth that are perpetrators or victims of violence: 2.
  • Percent of TV news stories that cover youth accomplishments: less than 2.

Milwaukee Segregation

Milwaukee is second in the nation (just behind Detroit) for the level of Black and white segregation of children under 18. Segregation grew sharply in the last decade, in large part due to white flight to the suburbs, and Milwaukee had the highest jump in segregation of any major city. The figures are based on an analysis of census data and census tracts by researchers at the State University of New York at Albany.

Of the top 50 metropolitan areas, the 10 most segregated, by neighborhood, for black and white children were: Detroit, Milwaukee, New York, Newark, Chicago, Cleveland, Miami, Cincinnati, Birmingham, Ala., and St. Louis.

Dictionary Victory

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has agreed that the word “nigger” will no longer be listed as a synonym for African-American, and shall be noted as a racial slur.

The decision was announced by Kweisi Mfume, president of the NAACP, at a speech this spring at Virginia Tech. The changes will take place with the next edition.

Mysterious Question

Washington state students had a curious question on their state standardized test in late April. One of the questions was: “Using the geographical information provided about four imaginary towns along the route of a school bus driver, figure out the alignment of the towns from west to east.”

The correct answer was: (C) Mayri, then Clay, then Lee, then Turno.

Say the answer aloud and what do you get? MayriClayLeeTurno. Might that sound like Mary K. Letourneau? Letourneau is perhaps the most infamous teacher in the state; the suburban Seattle woman is currently in prison for rape for giving birth to two children fathered by a former student who was 12 years old when their relationship began.

Officials are investigating how the question got on the test


Nike is a one of the winners of the Schmio Awards — recognizing the worst in television commercials — for its chainsaw advertisement that is a tasteless parody of slasher movies.

The Schmio Awards were handed out in April in New York City, in an event sponsored by New York Council for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Humanities.

Other corporate winners include:

  • Pepsi, for its Britney Spears’ belly-button-popping ad.
  • Discover Card, for its bald celebration of commercialism in a hospital emergency room;
  • CBS News’ relentless hyping of the CBS “reality show,” Survivor;
  • Sports utility vehicle ads for Land Rover and Kia;
  • Fox Sports Report, for its bigoted portrayal of Southwest Asian athletes in India Sports Spoofs.

Quotable Quote

“There isn’t an us and them with this administration. They is us. We is them.”

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, describing the conservative movement’s ties with the Bush administration.