Lisa Sharon Harper’s “An Education in Implicit Bias” (January 2015) covers a number of good points, but contains one significant factual error. Harper incorrectly writes that schools are funded through local “homeownership” taxes. In most of the country, schools are actually funded by property taxes. It is an easy mistake to make, since homeowners are the largest group that pays these taxes, but the levies are actually assessed on all real estate, save that owned by government agencies. Funding for schools comes not only from owner-occupied residential property, but also from rental residences and both commercial and industrial properties.
Her overall point remains valid. Areas with high levels of home ownership do tend to have higher property values than those that are primarily rental homes. In addition, a great deal of rental housing (even in areas with high property values) is in the form of apartments, which provide more housing units per tax lot, thus requiring the same revenue to provide for more students. Because property values usually correlate strongly with the wealth of the residents, the areas in which good public education is most needed frequently have the public schools that lack the resources necessary to provide that education.
Oak Grove, Oregon