Kelly Goodman is a Ph.D. candidate in history at Yale University. Kelly received her B.A. in history, economics, and political science from the University of Michigan and an M.A. and M.Phil. in history from Yale. Before graduate school, Kelly was an education data analyst at a Detroit non-profit and has also worked as a community organizer and labor organizer. For the last decade, she has been a board member of the Telluride Association, an education non-profit programming summer seminars for high schoolers and college scholarship houses with a focus on intellectual inquiry, self-governance, and public service.
Tax the Rich: Teachers’ Long Campaign to Fund Public Schools
After the recent teacher strike wave, state voters will decide how to pay for the policies and raises politicians promised in 2020 elections. These proposals and propositions to tax businesses and the rich have a back story. Centering grassroots politics, economic ideas, and finance policies, Taxing Limits: The Political Economy of American School Finance follows organized teachers, businesses, and farmers who pursued fiscal strategies in courts and legislatures and through ballot initiatives and constitutional conventions. Even as organizers lobbied for federal aid to education, and campaigned for local school millages and bonds, they consistently argued funds should come from the state, which has constitutional responsibility for public education. The dissertation begins in the Great Depression, when property tax delinquency prompted school funding cuts and a search for alternative taxes. Conservative businessmen intervened in education politics to keep control local and costs low, but before WWII, farmers were the swing vote, preferring the sales tax in Michigan but permitting the income tax in California. Teachers and their allies in labor unions and economics departments argued progressive state income taxes should fund schools, eventually securing a short-lived legal precedent making local property taxes unconstitutional in the early 1970s. In reaction, media like a forgotten Kansas senator’s agricultural publishing house and later, lobbies like the notorious conservative state legislators’ American Legislative Exchange Council, spread constitutional limits on taxing and spending from state to state, beginning in Michigan in the 1930s and California in the 1970s.