Q&A - How Many Floridians Attend Public Schools?


Miami-Dade County Public Schools Begin New School Year

Photo: Bloomberg

Today’s entry: How the heck can school tax be so high when MANY homes are owned by retirees without kids or MANY homes are owned by seasonal residents like me and don’t have kids in school! It’s nuts.

Bottom Line: You’re far from alone in your frustration that we’re paying among the highest property taxes in the country in South Florida with the bulk of the funds going to the public education system which isn’t used by most. It’s a recurring theme I’ve heard over the years from people like yourself. The argument advanced by those who defend all property owners having to pay for public education through property taxes, is that society benefits generally from a healthy public education system. There’s at least some truth to that argument, though there’s nothing equitable about the value families who make use of public schools receive as opposed to those who never do. To your point, Floridians are generally less likely to use the public school system based on demographics. 

The average age is 42.5, Florida’s the fifth oldest state in the country. Additionally, Florida has the country’s largest senior population, with 4.5 million Floridians, 21% of Florida’s population, over the age of 65. These aren’t people generally using grade schools of any type and often are the most negatively impacted by the rise in property taxes. And as for households with grade school students, there are many who opt for private education. 13% of Florida’s grade school students attend private school. Another 3%+ are homeschooled. By the time you account for all of these factors, along with those who don’t have children, the percentage of households that actually use the public school system is 28.6%

All homeowners pay property taxes, among the highest in the nation in South Florida, primarily to provide public education that just over a quarter of households use. Florida’s foreclosure rate is currently the 7th highest in the country and the greatest affordability issues stem from property insurance cost increases and property tax increases. This is in part why I feel it’s important that we rethink the way we go about imposing property taxes and begin to prioritize homeowners, placing them on at least neutral footing with government interests.

Starting with attaching property tax rate increases, to increases in property value as opposed to the cost of inflation. There perhaps should be consideration paid to opting seniors out of having to pay property taxes for public schools as well. Conceptionally, how logical or righteous is it that a retiree’s home is foreclosed by a local government because they can’t afford to pay increased property taxes which are primarily used to pay for public schools? That conversation is a different version of a similar thing for up to 71.4% of Florida’s population who don’t use the public school system but now pay an average of about $2,000 per year in property taxes alone for them.

Florida’s somewhat uniquely positioned to begin to rework the way we do things. Our economy continues to lead the country in growth, producing record revenues to state and local governments. Additionally, the recently adopted law which collects sales taxes on online purchases is expected to add additional billions in revenue. Specific to schools, while our state’s population continues to rapidly grow, we continue to see far more families moving to the state who aren’t using public schools than not. Use of our public schools has barely budged in recent years while we’ve averaged adding hundreds of new residents daily. All of these factors provide an opportunity to reshape the way we pay for public education. It’s my hope that begins to happen. 

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods. 

Email:brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

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