The returns on public investment in education are well known. Traditionally, the United States has been the best educated nation in the world in terms of mean years of schooling, a designation we have only recently lost. These investments have led to robust economic growth, with some studies attributing 25% of all post-World War II GDP gains to increases in educational attainment.
There is, however, an obvious objection to this namby-bamby narrative. Sure, children are our future… but can you turn them into sweet, sweet crude? Maybe Johnny can read, but will fractional distillation transform him into a high-octane fuel? And if your state's student population features a large number of undocumented immigrants, is it even worth spending money on Juan if he can't power your SUV? All important questions, to which Texas offers one possible answer…
Some of the nation's largest oil refineries are seeking huge tax refunds that could force school districts and local governments across Texas to give back tens of millions of dollars they were counting on to pay teachers and provide other services.
The refineries want the tax breaks in exchange for buying pollution-controlling equipment. But the cost to public schools would be dear, coming only months after lawmakers slashed education spending by more than $4 billion.
If a three-member commission appointed by Gov. Rick Perry grants the refunds, nearly half the money would be taken from schools. Classrooms in cities with refineries would be hurt most.
An agency hilariously named the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality — no relation to North Korean Commission on Human Rights or the Iranian Committee on Religious Tolerance, if you're wondering — is evaluating the oil companies' request for a tax abatement, which appears to have legal merit thanks to an amendment to the Texas Constitution exempting from property taxation any equipment installed to meet EPA requirements.
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Tags: Education, Energy & Oil, Environment, Food, Rick Perry, Taxes, Texas