Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

 (Photo: 90.5 WESA)

How Rich Old White Men Are Taking the Lunch Money Away From Broken-Down Schools

Paul Buchheit

Cuts to Head Start and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program have taken food away from schoolchildren. The cuts are directly related to the dramatic dropoff in federal corporate tax revenue.

Tax avoidance is just as bad at the state level, which is a much greater source of K-12 educational funding. Both individuals and corporations are paying less state taxes than ever before. As a result, our public schools, the most important expression of a society working together to secure future generations, are being defunded and dismantled and left to decay.

It may be the ugliest extreme of inequality in our country -- tax avoidance by the rich vs. broken-down schools.

Rich White Male Tax Avoidance

According to a Standard and Poor's analysis, average annual state tax revenue fell from 10% to 5% between 1980 and 2011, even as the share of total income for the top 1% of earners doubled. The top 10% and the top 500 CEOs are predominately white males. Our country's missing tax revenue can be found in their growing stock portfolios.

Corporate Tax Cheats

Walgreens and Burger King are the most recent manifestations of the so-called inversions that allow companies to skip out on the country that made them successful. They don't want to pay for decades of publicly funded research in technology and medicine; a legal system that protects patents and intellectual property; infrastructure, including roads and seaports and airports to ship their products; unprecedented amounts of local and national security, a nationwide energy grid to power factories, emergency management (FEMA) to clean up industrial accidents.

President Obama said, "I don't care if it's legal, it's wrong." These inverting companies, he continued, "don't want to give up all the advantages of operating in the United States. They just don't want to pay for it."

Inversions and other tax haven deceptions are a double insult to us, because not only are taxes left unpaid, but profits have also been manipulated by accounting chicanery to end up in the U.S. anyway.

State School Funding Gone

Overall spending on K-12 public school students fell in 2011 for the first time since the Census Bureau began keeping records over three decades ago. The cuts have continued to the present day.

Three separate studies have shown that corporations pay less than half of their required state taxes, which are a main source of K-12 educational funding and a significant part of pension funding. Most recently, the report "The Disappearing Corporate Tax Base" found that the percentage of corporate profits paid as state income taxes has dropped from 7 percent in 1980 to about 3 percent today.

Broken-Down Schools

In the last year about 75 schools have been closed in Philadelphia and Chicago, almost all of them in black neighborhoods.

Public schools anchor their communities, providing the stability and sense of common purpose that benefit all their members, from students to parents to teachers. As researcher Sarah Hainds explains, "At school closing hearings, people constantly say that it’s as if CPS is erasing their history. There are schools where three generations of family members have attended. There’s a ton of’s still the center of their community."

With the breakup of public schools, students are often required to walk an extra eight blocks or more across busy streets and through neighborhoods with foreclosed homes, to get to schools that are usually no better in performance than the schools being shut down.

Communities Are Left to Pay, and They Don't Want To

Without state tax revenue, the funding burden falls on local property and sales taxes. Wealthier areas are able to spend much more on their children. They also have better connections to private educational foundations.

Worst of all, some well-to-do communities are refusing to support the common good, transferring their local taxes to tax-deductible parent's foundations to avoid supporting poorer schools within their taxing districts.

The very wealthy -- both corporations and individuals -- have received countless benefits from our long-productive society, especially from our nation's educational system. But they like to believe they made it on their own. They don't want to feel guilty about kids without breakfast and without a neighborhood school.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit is an advocate for social and economic justice, and the author of numerous papers on economic inequality and cognitive science. He was recently named one of 300 Living Peace and Justice Leaders and Models. He is the author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (2008) and "Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income" (2017). Contact email: paul (at)

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Kentucky Progressive Charles Booker Wins Democratic US Senate Primary

"We're going to beat Rand Paul," Booker confidently predicted, by "inspiring a vision that encourages people to believe things can be better."

Brett Wilkins ·

As Senators Try to Expand War Crimes Jurisdiction, Critics Ask if US War Criminals Count

"I've got names and addresses of American war criminals if any senators are interested," quipped veteran journalist Nick Turse.

Brett Wilkins ·

Climate Campaigners Demand Oxford, Cambridge Stop Taking Fossil Fuel Money

"This funding undermines climate justice, fueling the continued disproportionate harms of the fossil fuel industry on marginalized communities worldwide."

Julia Conley ·

Palestine Defenders Hail Rep. Tlaib's 'Historic' Nakba Resolution

"The time has come for the United States to correct an ongoing historical mistake it committed by recognizing the Palestinian Nakba, and to pressure Israel to respect American values that call for justice, equality, and freedom for all."

Brett Wilkins ·

Earth's Atmospheric CO2 Hasn't Been This High In Millions of Years

"Either we drive the fossil fuel industry into extinction—or the human race."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo