Public school funding in the U.S. is a patchwork of different laws, because individual states are given the freedom to fund public schools however they see fit. The lack of federal guidance means funding for schools can vary widely between different states and even individual cities. That leads to budget shortfalls and inconsistent school income, which can dramatically harm students’ educational prospects.
Concerns about lackluster school funding have prompted many states and districts to look beyond their current sources of funding to discover new ways to raise capital. Colorado provides an example of this outside-the-box thinking, and began using tax dollars collected during marijuana sales to increase school funding.
While a relatively small amount of school funding currently comes from legal marijuana sales, this tax, and others like it, may have a major impact on school funding in the years to come.
The Situation in Colorado
Colorado voters first approved legal marijuana sales in 2012, and they voted in favor of the current taxation scheme in 2013, according to The Gazette. The legalization of marijuana has been a touchy issue across the country, but the idea of heavy taxation to accompany legalization made the idea more palatable to some voters who might otherwise be opposed.
The taxes levied on marijuana in Colorado are significant. In many locations they can account for nearly a quarter of the drug’s purchase price. That money goes to the state, city and county, and in many cases eventually makes its way to local school districts.
“Marijuana taxes go to the state, the city and the county.”
This is the first time that taxes from marijuana have been used to fund education, and they have resulted in millions of additional dollars for some Colorado school districts. While the total amount is minimal when compared to other income schools receive, it may give some Colorado districts the money required to embark on construction projects that can improve facilities and educational outcomes. That might spur more areas to examine how much money taxes can bring in for schools.
The Need for Additional Funding
While states find different routes to fund their schools, nearly every school district requires more money than it currently receives. According to a study released by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities in 2012, districts across the state were significantly underfunded. Connecticut is not alone, and its plight highlights how these monetary issues can affect students’ everyday lives.
Researchers specifically noted the negative impact of underfunding on school’s construction plans. Public institutions were unable to begin or complete necessary construction projects because they lacked the appropriate funds.The schools in Connecticut were predominantly built during the 1970s. Despite the age of these facilities, and the changing needs of today’s students and teachers, they remain unaltered because of funding issues.
States Must Look for Alternatives
It’s clear every state and school district needs to reevaluate its current school funding strategy or deal with rampant underfunding for public institutions. While every area may not be able to follow Colorado’s lead, it provides a concrete example of a new way to generate revenue that can give schools the funding they need.
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