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Churches could help expand preschool education

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel  |  Rich Hein~Sun-Times

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: July 3, 2012 11:32AM



Your May 20 editorial, “Teach kids now or pay later,” is timely and on target. Our state and country are at crossroads with the funding of education for our youth.

The editorial notes the decrease of $55 million since 2009 for preschool slots.

These loss of slots should not be happening. Illinois citizens need a great preschool education system. The state’s youngest children need a future!

One reasonable and relatively inexpensive way to help expand preschool education in Illinois and the nation is to have churches be centers for preschool.

Some churches already are doing this, but many churches have buildings and facilities that are vacant during the week, and also have a pool of ex-teachers, professionals, parents and others who they could draw from for a teaching/mentoring core.

One Illinois community, Aurora, is already tackling the problem of early childhood education with an initiative called SPARK (Strong, Prepared and Ready for Kindergarten).

This initiative involves the City of Aurora, Fox Valley United Way, schools (Districts 129, 131, 204, and 308), Aurora Public Library, Illinois Action for Children, churches and others.

Trish Rooney, director of SPARK — Aurora, notes, “The church community can certainly play an active role in helping to ensure that every young child in the Aurora community has an early childhood experience.”

John Ross,

Batavia

Rahm vs. teachers?

Can someone tell me how it is possible that Mayor Richard M. Daley averted a teachers’ strike for 25 years, but our new mayor, Rahm Emanuel, has led Chicago to its first strike after just one year in office?

Edward Dziedzic,

Uptown

Kudos to cops for summit

The NATO summit in Chicago has come and gone, leaving little damage in its wake.

The collaborative efforts of diverse communities — for example, police, businesses, and residents — helped to minimize potential losses. Kudos to them.

Leon J. Hoffman, Lake View

Cigarette tax hikes bring in far less less revenue than predicted

Gov. Pat Quinn and other lawmakers should rethink their decision to raise the state’s cigarette taxes by $1 per pack and double the tax on cigars, pipe tobacco and smokeless tobacco to fund Medicaid costs. It is an idea that has failed in many states that have tried to balance budgets with cigarette and tobacco tax increases.

Our experience at the National Association of Tobacco Outlets, a trade organization representing more than 23,000 retail stores across the U.S., is that cigarette and tobacco tax increases generate far less revenue than their proponents predict. Moreover, the tax hike robs retailers, many of them small mom-and-pop stores, of tens of thousands of dollars in lost sales. Unfortunately, lost sales often lead to lost jobs. For example, of the 19 states that passed a tobacco tax increase between July 2006 and July 2009, 14 fell short of the estimated revenue increase, and 11 of those missed projections by at least 19 percent. Also, this year more than 20 states have introduced bills to raise cigarette taxes, but not a single legislature has passed an increase.

If the $1 per pack tax increase is passed by the Legislature, Illinois will be adjacent to four states with lower cigarette taxes. Adult smokers will simply drive and save $6.20 per carton of cigarettes in Iowa, $18.10 per carton in Missouri, $13.80 in Kentucky and $9.85 per carton in Indiana. This means both retailers and the State of Illinois lose. Moreover, when smoking customers stock up on cigarettes in neighboring states, they also take with them the sales of gasoline, food and sodas they typically buy while stopping to purchase tobacco products.

For small mom-and-pop businesses that count on smoking customers for over a third of their revenue each year, and for retailers who sell mostly tobacco products, this will be devastating.

While some proponents argue that higher taxes encourage smokers to quit, the truth is that most smokers do not. When Florida increased its tax by $1 per pack in 2009, retailers in north Florida saw an average 24 percent decline in cigarette sales, while retailers in southern Alabama and Georgia saw their sales increase by 4 percent and 19 percent, respectively. This clearly demonstrates that smokers are more than willing to cross borders to buy cigarettes and other items. If you are a nonsmoker, you may wonder why you should care about this issue. The reason is this: Your state government is unwisely counting on a declining revenue source to make up for Medicaid deficits. It is only a matter of time before they raise taxes on other goods and services.

The association is asking Gov. Quinn and legislators to use their wisdom and drop any proposals that increase cigarette and tobacco taxes. With this being an election year, Gov. Quinn has chosen to increase the most politically expedient tax where only a minority of voters will pay a higher tax to help fix a statewide budget problem. If Gov. Quinn desires to resolve the Medicaid deficit with tax increases, then fairness should require that he recommend a tax increase that falls broadly across all citizens, and not just the 23 percent of adults who choose to use tobacco products.

Thomas A. Briant, executive director,

National Association of Tobacco Outlets,

Minneapolis



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