Q: I was taught by my parents that nothing is free; everything has a cost to someone. How can a society provide free quality education? Were my parents wrong all this time and I didn’t know it?

A: Of course, providing public education free to all doesn’t mean it has no cost. We believe that education is a public, social responsibility and necessity, and that the quality of the education our children receive should not be dependent on parental income or place of residence. Therefore, we think that education, from pre-school through higher education, should be publicly and equitably funded. That doesn’t have to mean increasing taxes on working people.

Today, much of our public school funding comes from inequitable and increasingly burdensome local property taxes. Poorer cities and communities with declining tax bases are forced to raise their tax rates and slash school spending just to try to maintain already underfunded schools. Meanwhile, our nation is spending billions on war and the Republicans are handing enormous tax giveaways to the super-wealthy. Changing those policies would free considerable sums to fund social needs including public education.

Fundamentally, our society and our educational system are being starved because a tiny group — the super-rich capitalist class — pockets the vast profits from the private ownership of our economy. We think these profits should go into public funds to pay for social needs and benefits, since these profits are created by the work of the people who make this country run. We see the need for socialism — where the core of the economy is publicly owned and run in the public interest. Under such a system, funding for quality public education would be ample, and a top priority.

But even short of socialism, we can win better funding for education. Big battles are being waged against Bush’s cuts in school funding, against inadequate funding of federal laws imposed on schools, and for making the system for funding education more fair and improving educational quality for all children.

Other developed capitalist countries provide much higher subsidies to public education at all levels than our country does, although this funding is under attack in many places as transnational capitalism seeks to privatize and slash public services globally.

We advocate free public education from pre-school through higher education. This is both possible and necessary for a democratic society based on full equality and public participation.

We invite readers to submit questions about the Communist Party USA, its basic policies, and a Marxist viewpoint on current social issues. The answers are provided by Marc Brodine, chair of the Washington State Communist Party. Questions can be sent to cpusa@cpusa.org.