Brown Bag Talk: Kelly Goodman on "Taxing Limits: The Political Economy of American School Finance"

(28056) Demonstrations, Strikes, Detroit Public Schools, 1998-1999

Join the Reuther Library on October 25 from 12-1 for a research discussion from Fishman Grant Recipient Kelly Goodman of Yale University.

In her forthcoming dissertation Taxing Limits: The Political Economy of American School Finance, Goodman explores both the grassroots and elite political history of funding education through local and state taxes. Goodman uses the example of 1930s and 1970s public budget crises in Michigan and California, notable for their powerful labor unions and business associations, and for their pioneering role in applying the fiscal concept of tax limitation to constrain, not cut, government.

Goodman argues that the characteristic pattern of school finance—expansion then retraction of spending and taxing—and its source in the property and sales taxes, predated and outlasted the New Deal order. Thus, school tax politics do not conform to the consensual, reactionary, or radical master narratives of twentieth-century American political history. Looking below the national level to states and municipalities, Goodman reorients political history around enduring tensions between the control of decisions and the allocation of money in federalism. She skips over the metropolitan boundaries that define education histories: parents and teachers looked to the state, not just the suburbs, for funds. Rather than a populist backlash against busing for racial integration, Goodman focuses on elite financial constraints that made even “equal but separate” schools impossible.

In addition to work with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) records, here Goodman discusses the UAW’s political action on teacher organizing and school finance. Indeed, UAW leaders, including all three Reuther brothers, and affiliated organizations like the Americans for Democratic Action campaigned in local school funding elections. The UAW also helped organize another group of school funding advocates: teachers.

Feel free to bring a lunch and your questions!