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Rethinking the Property Tax-School Funding Dilemma

By Daphne A. Kenyon, Bethany Paquin, and Andrew Reschovsky

February 2023, English

This policy brief focuses on the roles of the local property tax and state aid in the funding of public education and analyzes their strengths and weaknesses. A key theme is the property tax–school funding dilemma—the challenge of overcoming the drawbacks of both the local property tax and state aid in a way that assures that state school funding systems can finance an adequate education for all students equitably and efficiently.

Case studies of five states (California, Massachusetts, South Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin) illustrate the complexities of the dilemma. The report concludes with 11 recommendations, some of which focus on ways to make the local property tax more equitable and efficient. Others suggest ways to improve state aid for K–12 education. A final recommendation argues for an expansion of federal education aid to assist low-income states and to address learning loss arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This Policy Brief is a condensed version of Rethinking the Property Tax-School Funding Dilemma, a Policy Focus Report by Daphne A. Kenyon, Bethany P. Paquin, and Andrew Reschovsky.


Inequality, Local Government, Municipal Fiscal Health, Poverty, Property Taxation, Public Finance, Public Policy, Tax Reform, Taxation