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Taxes and Public Education: A Memo to President Trump

Published in ChicagoNow, April 18, 2017

In my community of Evanston, Illinois, we paid our taxes today. We also voted in a recent referendum to raise our property taxes to support our local schools. Was this an easy choice to make? Not really, as many of us are folks who are just getting by. But because our state and federal government don’t support the public schools that are the heart of this community, an astonishing 80 percent of us stepped up to the plate.

How about you, Mr. Trump? Evidently, we will never be able to know whether you pay your taxes at all or if you have ever donated to support the public schools in your community.

You have made repeated promises dating back to 2014 when you stated you would release your tax returns if you decided to run for President. As a candidate you claimed you had “very big returns” and could not release your tax returns at that time because you were “under audit.” I’m guessing we will never know how much you paid in taxes, what you really donated to charity, or who loaned you money for your businesses.

Recently, Sean Spicer told the press that, “It’s the same thing that was discussed during the campaign trail — the president is under audit. It’s a routine one that continues. Nothing has changed.” Kellyanne Conway added, “The White House response is that he’s not going to release his tax returns. We litigated this all through the election. People didn’t care.”

Like many things your spokespeople say on your behalf, that’s a lie. According to recent polls, up to 80 percent of Americans do care and want to see your tax returns. It’s something every President has done over the past 40 years. But instead, you tweeted the following this past weekend in response to the tax marches:

I did what was an almost an impossible thing to do for a Republican-easily won the Electoral College! Now Tax Returns are brought up again? (8:07 AM – 16 Apr 2017)

Someone should look into who paid for the small organized rallies yesterday. The election is over! (8:13 AM – 16 Apr 2017)

Yes, the election is indeed over and we now have a President who expects us to pay but refuses to share his own history with taxes. We also have an administration that includes Betsy DeVos, a Secretary of Education who doesn’t care if our public schools receive the funds they need to educate the children of our community.

According to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers,

“DeVos spent two decades defunding and destabilizing public schools in Michigan, and now she wants to spread that same agenda to every town and city in America.” My family in Michigan, many of whom are teachers, share Weingarten’s opinion. School choice and lack of funding have destroyed Detroit’s public schools.

Now, she and Trump have proposed funding cuts for, among other things:

  • After-school and summer programs

  • Child nutrition programs, claiming there is no evidence that feeding hungry kids improves their school performance

  • Reducing class-size

  • Community schools that provide health services, vision screenings, social workers and psychologists, GED and ESL classes, fitness programs, and parent resource programs

  • Teacher training

The vouchers and for-profit schools they support pull money and funding from public schools. As with the tax issue, the majority of Americans want to maintain strong public schools in their communities. And in my community at least, people put their money where their mouths were and voted overwhelming to pay for those schools.

Presidents should lead by example. Today is the deadline for your fellow Americans to pay their taxes. In addition to paying mine, I just made a donation to fund a handicap accessible playground for Park School, a public school in my community serving students who need a self-contained educational facility for reasons of safety, health, and/or the need for an intensive therapeutic environment. Among its population are students with significant physical impairments who are unable to use the playground in its current state.

The Park School PTA needs to raise $150,000. Care to make a donation, Mr. President? It’s tax deductible.


by Laurie Levy
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