Have you noticed anyone trying to pick your pocket or tap into your bank account? Be advised there are hundreds of people legally licensed to do just that. They are lobbyists. Their job is to schmooze your elected officials, buy them meals, contribute to their reelection, and show them how taking more taxes from you would be good for the public welfare. Some are even paid with money taken from your property taxes and funneled through local school districts. They don’t want your property taxes reduced; they want them increased.

In 1854 Texans decided to pay for school funding through property taxes. Back then, local school boards decided educational policy and hired teachers. One hundred and fifty years later we still fund most school costs through local property taxes, but have little input in K-12 education. The state and federal governments now determine most school policy. The State of Texas share of funding is now down to 38 percent, federal contributions are a trifle, leaving local property owners to fund the majority of the costs.

Recently education officials hired expensive lawyers, many paid with taxpayer money, to file a lawsuit against taxpayers in a friendly court. “All of the claims brought by the 300 plaintiff school districts were, at the end of the day, about more money,” said State Solicitor General, Ted Cruz. Property taxes, now capped at $1.50 per $100 valuation, is unconstitutional, so ruled the friendly court. Property taxes should be higher and not capped.

State Senator Florence Shapiro, Chair of the Senate Select Committee, says we may have to shut down schools unless we comply with the court ruling by June 1st. Gov. Rick Perry named a group chaired by former Comptroller John Sharp, a Democrat, to try to revive the tax reform process abandoned in the last legislative session. Gov. Perry and Lt. Gov. Dewhurst have endorsed a cut in property taxes, perhaps by a third. Both groups lean toward new business taxes as advocated by the lobbyists.

Voters should realize that a business tax is a stealth tax on them. Businesses do not pay taxes only people pay taxes. Raise taxes on business and business raises the price of their goods or services to consumers — you the taxpayer. All taxes should be open and visible so that the taxpayer knows what they pay. Lobbyists would rather you not know.

A better plan would be to increase the state sales tax, just so long as property taxes are reduced accordingly. Then people would know how much they are paying and the tax would fall more evenly on the people who use the schools. Under present tax policy, the burden is heavier on older property owners, most without children in the schools. Some older people are being taxed out of their homes, educating 4.3 million children, while many undocumented residents contribute nothing to schools (or hospitals).

State House Majority Leader Tom Craddick wants to tie at least some teacher pay raises to performance, establish a uniform school start date and schedule school board elections on the same day as general elections in November, so that more taxpayers will turn out and vote for school board candidates. More often than not, our school boards are a rubber stamp for school administrators under the present system.

Let’s face it: Public education is a bottomless pit. It is impossible to provide enough money to satiate their appetite. The bureaucracy exists for the purpose of obtaining more tax money for education. These bureaucrats could never declare victory or they would lose their lucrative jobs. And whose money do they take? Yours.

Do they need more money? According to Americans for Prosperity, the American Federation of Teachers ranked Texas teacher pay at 17th nationally when adjusted for cost of living. And the National Education Association calculated education spending by state and found that Texas ranks first among the 10 most populous states in total public school expenditures relative to personal income. Test results repeatedly show there is no link between money spent and academic achievement. For example, Washington, D.C. schools cost the most and have one of the lowest ratings.

Let’s discontinue the trickle-down effort to reward teachers. Let’s follow Tom Craddick’s proposal and reward the teachers who perform, and stop wasting money on overpaid educrats. That would be a win-win for teachers, students, and taxpayers. Tell your representatives you want a significant cut in property taxes.

Just remember, you have no lobbyists working for your interests. If you don’t contact your elected officials, they will not hear the taxpayer side of the issue. Senator Shapiro is joined on the committee by Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) toll free (888) 694-2609, Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, can be reached toll free at (866) 829-6370. Call Gov. Rick Perry’s office at (512) 463-2000.

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