Columnist Garey Forster has been reminding us of Louisiana’s disadvantages compared to other states as measured by such things as outmigration of younger people, especially in middle- and upper-income taxpayers. He claims that the workforce of today is mobile and goes to states that offer better job prospects and tax advantages.
He writes, “Louisiana … can no longer rely on oil and gas resources or hospitality to sustain its economy. Investing in people and education … is necessary if the state is to compete on a national level.” His favorite states to compare are Texas, Florida and Tennessee, two of which have eliminated the income tax.
It would therefore be worthwhile to compare these states when it comes to educational rankings. According to U.S. News and World Report, we find that Florida is ranked 16, Tennessee 31, Texas 35, and Louisiana 46th for pre-K to 12th grade.
One major tax disadvantage for public schools in our state is the Industrial Tax Exemption program, which significantly reduces property tax revenue for public school districts each year. This money could be used to increase teacher salaries and to participate in funding early childhood education, where research shows that every dollar invested yields a $7.30 return in terms of graduation rates, better health and reduced crime. Such a program would require an investment of $839 million over 10 years.
It’s time to end industrial tax exemptions for school districts in Louisiana. Doing so would send a powerful message to people in neighboring states that we are serious about improving public education.