By Nick McDaniels – Teachers and teacher salaries are often the scapegoat for school systems not having any money. To be sure, staff salaries and benefits are a major expense in big urban school districts. And big urban school districts struggle with funding because the cities in which they are situated struggle to generate revenue for schools, which are often based on property taxes. When teachers want a raise, more resources, or better working conditions, school systems and their defenders can cry poverty and blame the teachers for trying to break an already broke system. How convenient!
The story that is not told is that many of our cities, which could be giving more money to their school districts to provide better wages, more resources, and better working conditions, squander millions and millions of dollars in annual tax revenue every year to tax breaks for developers. These developers, armed with the promises of jobs and redevelopment and dreams of conquering America’s urban frontier, enjoy years and years of tax-incentives, but often never deliver on the promises of jobs but rather on the hidden promise of gentrification. In the meantime, schools that could have used the revenue continue to struggle.
It’s hard to blame the developers for taking the hand out. But, in my mind, it’s even harder to blame the teachers, many of whom do pay property taxes in the jurisdictions where they teach (as I do), for asking for increase wages, more resources, and better working conditions. So who do we blame?
The corrupt city officials continue to underfund schools so as to provide financial incentives to the developers who donated heavily to their campaigns. Voluntary impoverishment is never an adequate defense for not paying the bills. So why do we continue to let cities who do not appropriately fund schools defend themselves; or worse, why do we defend them for passing the blame?