By touching on issues of public school financing, citizenship and its responsibilities, federalism, and the meanings of liberty and equality (see state and national standards), this curriculum is appropriate for high school civics/government, economics, business, and finance courses. It can also be adopted for use in introductory economics and government courses at community colleges or four-year institutions.
The curriculum is divided into five units that are best taught as a whole, but can also be taught as single units. In Part 1, Who pays for schools in New York State?, students define the property tax and related concepts such as equalization rates. They calculate the contributions of federal, state, and local governments and determine whether the tax is progressive, regressive, or proportional. They also begin to learn about how tax revenues and per pupil spending differ across districts.
In the second part, How does the real property tax affect the taxpayer?, students learn to interpret a tax bill. Acting as an assessor, they determine the value of real property and how it should be taxed.
In part three, How does the government decide how much tax to levy?, students act as local school and government officials to determine what school services and materials they would fund. In addition, they consider actions they would take in response to hypothetical increases or cuts in state and federal funding.
In part four, Does reliance on the property tax contribute to inequities in the availability of quality education for students in New York State?, students use internet resources to compare their district with a low-, medium- and high-income school district. They must determine what factors determine school quality and then hypothesize on whether or not the property tax contributes to the inequalities they find across districts.
In the final section of the unit, Should we reform the property tax in New York State?, students look at alternative models for property taxation and present their recommendations for property tax reform in New York State to their classmates.