Education is critical for the growth and development of a country and any government should prioritize access to schooling. In the United States, the cost of teaching has been a sensitive topic for debate with several people expressing that the expenses need to be brought down. House Bill (HB) 21 authored by Representative Terry Canales seeks to help reduce the costs of course materials since students spend more than $485 annually on textbooks (Balevic, 2019). This essay examines the proposed legislation and the problem it attempts to solve concerning the costs of schoolbooks.
House Bill 21
House Bill 21 proposes to save students some money by exempting them from paying taxes on textbooks for limited periods. Rep. Canales believes that making education more affordable will benefit the government more than collecting taxes on the learners (Balevic, 2019). With the expenditure on books rising over $485 (reaching $525 after Austin’s 8.25% sales tax), excluding course materials from the sales tax could go a long way in helping the scholars to save money.
The problem being addressed by the proposed bill goes beyond textbook prices. According to Kristof (2018), 65% of students skip purchasing the required books due to the lack of affordability. The costs of coursebooks have risen by up to four times the rate of inflation in the last decade (Kristof, 2018). The underlying issue is that students purchase the books but the expiry of the access codes at the end of the semester means they cannot resell them. The industry is controlled by five companies that tend to make the coursebooks expensive (Echevarria, 2018). HB 21 recognizes that the lack of access to textbooks is a critical issue that should be addressed. Tax exemptions sound like a perfect place to start, considering that it is the responsibility of the government to make education accessible. The broader challenge is the cost of education, with textbooks being a vital expense for the students.
Advantages and Disadvantages of HB 21
The main advantage of HB 21 is that it addresses key difficulties within the US education system, which includes the costs of and access to course materials. Today, the learners often rely on used books, digital resources, and rentals as a means to save money (Hill, 2015). These tactics are the result of increasing charges of textbooks. The bill is a critical step towards making learning materials cheaper and easily accessible to the students.
Another advantage is that the bill addresses the broader challenge of the affordability of education, especially at a time when student debt has become a serious concern. Rep. Canales is right by stating that the government will earn more from a productive population than it can earn through taxing students (Balevic, 2019). An educated population becomes more productive, earns greater disposable incomes, and contributes more revenues through sales taxes. The bill is advantageous not only to the students but also to the government in the long term.
The main disadvantage is that the state government will be deprived of tax revenues through tax exemptions. Following the publication of the bill, the legislative budget board conducted a fiscal impact of the bill in terms of the revenues the state would be expected to lose. The distribution of lost revenues across the general fund, cities, transit authorities, and counties, and special districts means more than one sector is affected. The respective estimated figures (in $ millions) for the year 2020 (assuming the bill takes effect on July 1, 2019) are 34.19, 6.34, 2.17, and 1.28 (McGeady & Keyton, 2019). Even though the state would benefit more from an educated population, Rep. Canales will be obligated to address these losses and explain how and when they will be recovered. The state requires funds to function, and the bill denies the government a major source of revenue.
Voting for the Bill
The HB 21 was read for the first time and referred to Ways & Means on February 11, 2019. The schedule for a public hearing was April 24, 2019, and no action has been taken in the committee. The bill is yet to be affected and, if I were a legislator, I would vote to pass the proposal. From an economic perspective, it is not prudent to allow a few companies to monopolize the industry and use their power to raise the costs of learning materials. Additionally, it is the responsibility of the government to make education accessible by ensuring affordability. If the government cannot subsidize the course materials, then a tax exemption is a good alternative. The students, according to Rep. Canales, are not the richest people in the country and many indeed struggle to afford education.
House Bill 21 authored by Rep. Canales is a good and logical bill intended to help students save money on textbooks. The prices of learning materials have risen rapidly and the costs now contribute to the issue of soaring student debt. HB 21 solves the problem of book prices and the broader concern of student debt and the cost of education. Passing it is an important step towards making education more affordable.
Balevic, K. (2019).The Daily Texan. Web.
Echevarria, G. (2018). Business Insider. Web.
Hill, P. (2015). eLiterate. Web.
Kristof, K. (2018). CBS News. Web.
McGeady, J., & Keyton, S. (2019). Legislative Budget Board. Web.