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Property taxation in frontier Kansas

Long, long ago, in a society much different from the one we have now, there were frontier townships in the Louisiana Territory. Each was formed of nine plots, with the central plot reserved for some of the central institutions of the town, one of which was a public school. As material investments were made to each land claim, the land and its buildings arguably became more and more valuable. As people made the land more productive in the way that settlers might value it, they came to be more prosperous, and needed a wider variety of services to support their increasingly complex needs, and their means to pay for these services became greater. All fine and dandy, as no one was going anywhere after they had sunk all that effort into their land.

Property taxation in the modern U.S.

With an increasingly mobile society, however, this has not gone so well. If ever one school district offers services or features that a neighboring district does not, some people may sell their homes and buy other homes in the other district. If these features are substantially more expensive, extensive, or highly prized, the tendency is for the wealthier home owners to move, leaving their somewhat less well-off neighbors behind in the former school district. Thus, one district attracts a wealthier community, and the other is left with a poorer one.

Then taxes are collected, and lo and behold, an even grander budget is to be had in the second district! Better services are in order, of course! Then even more people move in, and... well, you see where this is headed. It's a positive feedback loop that creates a larger and larger difference between the two districts, if such a large difference didn't exist from the beginning.


School Districts, Race and Income

The Racial Dot Map



--- Anti-fragility?

  • Bussing didn't help, cost a fortune, and arguably made things worse.
  • Does Federal and State aid close the gap between districts? The neighborhoods retain the level of wealth they had previously; only the school expenditures are of any consideration in these policies and amounts spent. Quick answer: No.
  • Any other recommendations, historic or theoretical? I've got my ears open. Do you?


It states further that public education funding based on real estate values creates a positive-feedback loop in a modern and mobile society, as school funding and real estate values interact directly. This feedback loop is not diminshed by any effort to diminish its effects, but simply strengthened by them. It is Anti-fragile.

(I plan to move these subsidiary arguments, but they're what I have at the moment to illustrate the concept.)

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