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Article: How Tax Breaks Strangle American Schools

BOULDER, CO (February 22, 2024)—Billions of dollars that could help students have instead vanished from budgets, when governments grant tax abatements to businesses. That’s one finding of an investigative article published recently by The Conversation.

A tax abatement is an incentive, usually through lowered or forgiven property taxes, that governments provide to businesses. Governments often use the abatements to lure a business into their area, in hopes of economic stimulation. Yet “most companies would have made the same location decision without subsidies,” as reported in the article. Meanwhile, local schools never see the foregone taxes.

These tax abatements are ubiquitous. As the article explains, about “95% of cities provide incentives to woo corporations,” redirecting billions of dollars away from public needs.

The article, written by three researchers and an investigative journalist, is part of “Inquiry,” a new investigative project of The Conversation, which is a nonprofit news organization that publishes articles written by academic experts and intended for the general public. NEPC Director Kevin Welner, a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, co-authored the new article along with Christine Wen of Texas A&M University, Nathan Jensen of UT Austin, and freelance reporter Danielle McLean.

Two different versions of the article are available—the full investigative piece as well as a condensed version—both of which are made freely available to the outlets for republishing on a Creative Commons license.

You can also find Students Lose Out as Cities and States Give Billions in Property Tax Breaks to Businesses—Draining School Budgets and Especially Hurting the Poorest Students, by Christine Wen, Danielle McLean, Kevin G. Welner, and Nathan Jensen, at:


The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, sponsors research, produces policy briefs, and publishes expert third-party reviews of think tank reports. NEPC publications are written in accessible language and are intended for a broad audience that includes academic experts, policymakers, the media, and the general public. Our mission is to provide high-quality information in support of democratic deliberation about education policy. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence and support a multiracial society that is inclusive, kind, and just. Visit us at: