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July 26, 2013

Kids or smokers: what side are you on?


By Connie Matthiessen, Associate Editor

Here’s a no-brainer: would you rather give more kids the chance to succeed in school, or give smokers access to cheaper cigarettes?

That’s what is at stake with the White House's plan for early education for all Americans. The proposal, which would make quality preschool available to all four-year olds from low- and moderate-income families (that is, families with an income of about $46,000 a year for a family of four), would be funded by a boost in taxes on cigarettes.

U.S. behind on early learning

There are countless reasons that all kids should have access to preschool; here are just a few:

Political stalemate

So why would anyone oppose  preschool for all — except, perhaps, the tobacco industry?  In fact, the preschool plan could easily become the latest casualty in Washington's tedious, ongoing brawl-athon: whatever one party proposes, the other side blocks. To date, not a single Republican lawmaker is supporting the plan. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell explained his opposition by saying he opposes tax hikes, but it's important to note that the plan won't increase the average American's tax bill; it will boost fees on a product that causes 443,000 deaths a year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. (Moreover, taxes on cigarettes have been shown to reduce smoking, particularly among young people.) 

But  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is optimistic: he told education reporters recently that he's in conversation with a number of Republicans, and is hopeful that some will ultimately back the plan. “This is a bipartisan issue,” Duncan insists. “Other nations aren’t stuck with political gridlock and dysfunction; they are investing heavily in early childhood education. I want our kids to have the same opportunities.”

Conservative support for preschool

In fact, a number of conservatives reject the notiion that increasing access to preschool is a partisan issue.  Ed Source reported recently that military leaders, prominent business groups, and faith organizations, swayed by research demonstrating the value of early education, have thrown their support behind the plan.

Writing in the New York Times, Gail Collins  pointed out that, even though preschool for all  is a popular idea, its supporters are no match for lobbiests funded by the tobacco industry and other special interests. So — it’s up to us. Are we going to protect smokers — or give more kids a better shot at a brighter future?


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Raising tobacco taxes has the unintended consequence of people finding other places to buy their cigarettes--like Indian reservations. Then I wonder if they will raise taxes on others. I'm not a smoker, but I don't see how smokers should bear the brunt of education taxes.

I think raising taxes on tobacco is a good idea in order to provide pre school for under privileged children. At least some good would be coming from the tobacco industry.

What happened to the lottery being attached to education funding? Another lie?

The lottery funds (at least in California) were always intended to be supplemental funds, but like everything in politics, the politicians like to promise the moon but not have to pay for it. Dedicated lottery funds soon were paying for every day ordinary expenses, and then when there was a financial bump in the road, there was no easy way to ride it out.

I smoke and I stand up for ECE programs if the taxes will really for to the ECE programs. I voted for the Lottery tax and very little of those taxes have gone to help schools to date it actually gotten worse for schools. Each classroom in our district gets one case of printer paper a year and if they run out oh well either the teacher ( who hasn't the funds) or the parents have to but more. Another thing the school budget is so bad in our district that the elementary schools are not even required to teach cursive to the children, because most of the classroom time is spent getting the students ready for the standardized test that are taken twice a year and usually the child has been pasted on when they get the results back. I really think it just a way to keep everyone in an up rower!!! Government is going to do whatever they want in the end and nothing else matters not children, adults, workers, non workers, young elderly. We just don't matter anymore when you get to the bottom line. Will I always voice my opinion " Yes I will" I will continue to vote and stand for what I believe in and maybe one day we will get back to the place where America really is ran by the American people!!!!!!

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