Need for another tax increase is hazy

Government schools in Jacksonville are trying hard to convince local taxpayers to raise taxes on themselves, but the arguments are not persuasive.

The tax increase to be voted on this month would mean someone in a $300,000 home would pay $275 a year more in property taxes, according to News 4 Jax.

School officials say the tax increase is needed to provide pay raises for teachers.

The evidence they present that increased pay is necessary is that the district has a shortage of teachers.

Indeed, that would be evidence. If teachers are not applying for jobs it could indicate either the pay is too low or the job conditions are unsuitable.

Except for one thing.

There are teacher shortages everywhere.

Applicants obviously are not avoiding Jacksonville because of low pay.

There is additional evidence to support that conclusion.

This year, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature included $800 million in the state budget to raise minimum teacher pay and increase veteran teacher salaries in Florida – the third year in a row there have been increases in teacher pay.

The $800 million is a $250 million increase over last year’s funding and brings Florida’s investments in teacher pay to more than $2 billion since the 2020 legislature, and with the current funding it will now rank at least ninth in the nation, the governor’s office said.

Investigative reporters for News 4 Jax managed to find a taxpayer who allegedly said he would be willing to pay $1,000 more in taxes. But many other taxpayers may be less eager in a time of rampant inflation to increase their own tax bills. The TV reporter quoted one opponent and in the comments on his story was this: “I thought we recently voted for a bill to increase teachers’ salaries? I’m a retired teacher but I’m going to have to vote no on this.”

Only 65 percent of the new tax revenue would go to teacher pay. The rest would be for frills such as art classes. The district already has succeeded in getting a sales tax increase that is being used for new school buildings.

New school buildings are needed to replace old buildings, not provide for growth. The student population of the traditional schools is shrinking and is projected to continue declining.

Because of school choice, which the Education Establishment opposes, the growth is in charter schools, voucher schools, private schools and homeschooling.

Charter student enrollment has increased by 14,417 students over the past 10 years and is projected to increase by 7,839 students over the next 10 years. Duval County has 11,538 students who have been able to escape failing government schools because of vouchers.

There is also another remedy for teacher shortages: increase classroom size. Although Florida voters were tricked into limiting classroom sizes 20 years ago, all it has done is cost $50 billion while doing nothing to improve educational outcomes.

Classroom sizes in the local government schools are well below the limits and could be increased if teacher shortages actually were a problem.

Lloyd Brown

Lloyd was born in Jacksonville. Graduated from the University of North Florida. He spent nearly 50 years of his life in the newspaper business …beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor for Florida Times Union. He has also been published in a number of national newspapers and magazines, as well as Internet sites. Married with children. Military Vet. Retired. Man of few words but the words are researched well, deeply considered and thoughtfully written.


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