Gambling With Our Schools

According to the Oregonian, “Oregon school districts could shut down more than 30 schools over the next two years as educators brace themselves for a slow-going recovery from the recession. Even districts that previously considered the closing of neighborhood schools as too disruptive to contemplate now see that as a better choice than the continued loss of academic, club and sports programs.”

We’re told that there just isn’t enough money to keep these schools open, but there’s a reason Oregon has no money. As David Cay Johnston has pointed out,

The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis, the state agency that forecasts revenue and expenses, said that for the 2011-2013 biennium, the lottery should net the state almost $1.1 billion compared with just under $900 million from the corporate income tax. And while corporate tax revenue should grow as the economy recovers, the lottery will continue to bring in more through at least 2017, the most distant year the forecast covers.

In other words, in Oregon those least able to afford it, those who benefit least from America’s economy, are being cajoled into bearing a heavier share of the burdens of government. At the same time, politicians are lavishing ever more tax breaks on corporations, those storehouses of wealth whose managers want to enjoy the benefits of public transportation, public education, public courts, and everything else the taxpayers provide, without sharing in the burdens.

In fact the share of Oregon income taxes paid by corporations has dropped from 18.5% in 1975 to 6.9% today. This makes Oregon (along with Delaware and North Carolina) the state with the lowest combined state and local business taxes as a share of the economy in 2009, according to the Council on State Taxation (COST). It also tied with Maryland as the state that in 2009 provided the greatest “value” to businesses from the taxes they paid. Until politicians are forced to tax corporations in Oregon, our public schools will continue to crumble and close.

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