Challenges Letter to the Editor on South Tama School bond

Dear Editor,

I am writing to respond to Mr. Adam Todd’s recent opinion piece entitled “Property Tax Concerns” in the January 31 edition of the Tama News-Herald. As a parent, a property-owner, a Chelsea City Council member, and a teacher, I believe that Mr. Todd fundamentally opposes taxation on any level. It seems to me this shows an appalling lack of civic responsibility, a blatant disregard for the value of social institutions, and an assumption that property ownership is a privilege that ought be protected from taxation.

The United States was founded on the principal of promoting “the general Welfare” and to “secure the Blessings of Liberty” (Declaration of Independence, 1787). As citizens and participants in this great Democracy, it is our responsibility to contribute to the general welfare by funding the government and its institutions. Thomas Jefferson first proposed the idea of a progressive income tax as a way to decrease the gap between the wealthiest and poorest among us to create a just society. Related to Jefferson’s idea of a just society was John Dewey’s idea of progressive education wherein we educate every child to reach his or her full potential and actively promote participation in a democratic society. While education is not a federal responsibility, under Article IX Section 12 of the Iowa Constitution, the State of Iowa established a system of common schools for “the education of all the youths of the State.” Therefore, it is our duty as citizens of both the United States and the State of Iowa to ensure that the general welfare of all is protected and promoted by acknowledging the value of public education as an important role of the State government and recognizing our responsibility to contribute to that effort by paying taxes, which are the fees for services we expect our local, state, and federal governments to provide.

The social institutions of government, such as regulating authorities, police and military organizations, and educational institutions, ought to function to promote the general welfare and provide access and protection to all persons, not only the wealthy, the property owners, or the members of the institutions themselves. Mr. Todd seems to think that funding schools is a pet project of the teachers or the Superintendent and that only property owners will contribute to the funding. Mr. Todd also seems to believe that teachers are not property owners and, therefore, will not contribute to the funding. Further, Mr. Todd believes that all teachers should sacrifice a portion of our salaries to generate the funds to build a new middle school so that he and other property owners are spared the pain of such a contribution.

Mr. Todd, have you been to South Tama County Middle School? I encourage you, and any community member who thinks that the Middle School is a “pet project,” to visit the school for a full day of school and witness the challenges presented by this facility to the students and staff who work there day in and day out.

I pay income and sales tax. I own property in Chelsea, and I pay property taxes. In fact, I work with teachers who own farms, own homes, and own commercial real-estate. We pay property taxes in Tama County, and we will be contributing to the funding of this project.

Teachers are already sacrificing salary just by choosing to be teachers. The property owners are defended annually by the Republican Party in the Statehouse at every level in their efforts to restrict funding for education, provide tax cuts to wealthy property owners, and to limit teachers’ collective bargaining power-all of which Iowa Republican legislators have successfully accomplished. Mr. Todd, you are far more protected than any teacher by the current policies and practices of government.

As citizens of the United States, we are guaranteed the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” but not the right to own property. Beyond our individual rights, we also have responsibilities. We endeavor to ensure that every person in this great nation has the opportunity to achieve their American Dream. We all work together and contribute so that despite the situation into which we are born, we may rise to achieve greater things. And for those of us who have achieved a greater level of success, we are obligated to support a system in which the less fortunate are not forced to live in squalor, left to languish in unsafe environments, and told they are undeserving of better because they are less fortunate. Our capitalist system is not intended to protect the wealth of the few, but to ensure the greatest good for the greatest number.

Mr. Todd seems to view investing in our public schools to be a waste of his money and a violation of his rights. I argue that not investing in our schools, our fire and police departments, and other social institutions demonstrates a lack of faith in our democracy, a lack of confidence in our institutions, and a lack of concern for others in our community. Instead, I believe that building a new middle school for the children in this community will lead to greater prosperity by demonstrating that the people of South Tama County value our schools and the education we are providing to the young people who are the future leaders, laborers, and land-owners. A new middle school integrated with the high school will save money on transportation costs. A new middle school will send a message to the students attending that they are valued and that the learning environment matters. A new middle school will allow for the redevelopment of a residential neighborhood in Toledo. A new middle school will improve the opportunities for the South Tama Community Schools to attract new families to our communities, thereby increasing the number of available people to fill jobs and further contribute to the tax base.

I choose civic responsibility. I value our social institutions. I understand that taxes are fees for services I expect my governments to provide. I choose to support creating an environment for children that sends a clear message that they are valued. I choose the future of this community and its prosperity over my personal politics, privilege, and property.

Dixie Forcht