By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – The library near my home is not up to my standards so I want to convert my share of taxes used to support the system to a voucher that I can take to Borders.
It’s my money after all. I should be able to spend it the way I want.
Or my lovely wife who is fond of books on tape – or I guess books on compact disc – could take that voucher and go to Cracker Barrel that has a lease program for books on tapes where she might find a better selection.
I might be able to sneak a biscuit and gravy breakfast with some of those voucher funds if the government does not have someone to closely monitor how that voucher is being used.
Seems kind of far-fetched?
Time for a little truth, here, before my lovely wife gets mad at me…again, for something I have said or written.
We actually have a very good library system in Madison County and my wife spends a considerable amount of time there checking out both traditional books and books on tape. She reads a lot. She is smart that way.
The point I am making is that time and again during this legislative session when talking about the public schools legislators have said the money should follow the child here and yonder because, after all, the parents paid the taxes to educate that child.
We can debate the merits of charter schools or of school choice. But we cannot – and should not – debate the issue that we all have a responsibility in educating our children.
At times, we have had four children in the Madison County School System. We have a modest home and both my wife and I have good jobs and pay state, local and federal taxes. But never did we think we were paying taxes solely to educate our children.
We were also paying taxes for roads, law enforcement, parks and recreation, libraries and litany of other local services, including a good school system not for just our children, but all children in the community.
There is no way – even though I think we have a fairly hefty tax bill when everything is considered – that we paid enough taxes to pay for the education of our children and for the other services that we received.
The way it works is that everybody pays for the schools – even those who have no children of school-age – and everybody pays for the parks – even those who never use them.
The same can be said for libraries and a host of other services.
I am an old guy now with no kids in the public schools – no relatives at all in the Madison schools. Using the logic of some in the Legislature, I guess I should no longer have to pay school taxes.
It is funny that the public schools are the only entity where some policymakers yearn for choice.
Nobody talks about the libraries and the money following the user to the private bookstore or even to Cracker Barrel.
There are people in almost every community in the state who opt for one reason or the other not to have their children participate in the parks and recreation program where they live.
For various reasons they might decide to have their child play youth baseball or soccer in a program in another city or county park and rec jurisdiction.
Normally, people who compete in another park and rec system have to pay an additional fee because they are not paying property taxes to support that program.
People do not contend they have already paid taxes to have their child pay soccer, baseball or football so the money should follow the child from one jurisdiction to another.
My daughter, bless her heart, for various reasons opted to go to a private university.
Never did it even cross my mind that a certain percentage of the taxes we paid went to pay for my daughter’s higher education so we wanted that money back to go toward her private college tuition.
Sure, in hindsight it would have helped. It would have helped a lot.
Maybe we could just pay for the legislators we think are doing a good job.
Bobby Harrison is the Daily Journal’s Capitol Bureau Chief. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (601) 353-3119.