"Story of the school tax - An effort to overcome the 'underfunding' of education" from the SARASOTA HERALD-TRIBUNE
March 12, 2006
Story of the school tax - An effort to overcome the 'underfunding' of educationHow did the Sarasota County School District arrive at the point where it's asking voters to continue a special tax for local schools?
That's a good, fair question to pose in advance of Tuesday's referendum. And it's an opportunity to review history.
In 2002, more than two-thirds of voters endorsed the 1-mill property tax for the first time. (State law dictates most of the taxes local school boards must levy, but provides for an additional local tax -- if a majority of voters approve. The law requires the tax to expire within four years, but allows an extension with voters' endorsement.)
The SchoolMatch study followed years of efforts by the school district to force the Legislature to fund education at the "adequate" level required by the state constitution. One such effort -- a lawsuit against the state -- was joined by the Manatee and Charlotte school districts.
That litigation and another lawsuit initiated by the Sarasota district nearly succeeded, but the courts reluctantly declined to define "adequate" funding. The Florida Supreme Court did, however, suggest that local districts had a right, if not an obligation, to seek additional resources for education.
In 1998, voters statewide endorsed a constitutional amendment calling for the state to provide adequate funding for a "high- quality" education for all students.
Despite that mandate, Florida's per-pupil funding ranks 42nd in the nation.
There may not be a direct correlation between every dollar spent and student achievement, but analysis and common sense strongly suggest that below-average funding won't produce "high-quality" public schools.
So, it's up to local voters to supplement state funding. We urge them to do so by voting Yes, for the Sarasota County school tax.