Editorial: Yes on Measure E

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If you want to make America great again, there’s something you can do right away: Vote yes on Measure E and support Gilroy’s schools.

With one swoop of your pen and a serious commitment of $60 for every $100,000 of property you own, you can build a new elementary school and fix up degrading middle schools. You can keep all of the district’s schools top notch, which is what we think makes America and our community great.

For some reasons that make no sense to us, schools, teachers and taxes have become anathema in this country over the past 40 years. Everyone wants the best services but no one wants to pay for them.

If you go back to a time a lot of people think America was great (and we think it’s still great, by the way), you might try the 1950s and 1960s when tax rates, particularly on the rich, were double and triple what they are now. Under Dwight D. Eisenhower, the rich paid 91 percent of their income. Under Richard M. Nixon, it was down to 77 percent. But then it kept dropping as rich people gained more power and convinced a large number of Americans that taxes were bad, particularly taxes on the rich. Back then, people didn’t mind the taxes as much because they knew they were making America great. They were proud of their country and still incredibly rich, despite the taxes.

The earlier tax rates afforded us immeasurable greatness. We built a transcontinental highway system. We built the biggest buildings in the world. We went to the moon. We built great schools and free public university systems.

But now schools have to raise money by holding their hats out like beggars. What’s happened to this country, where no one asks us to vote to spend trillions on wars both parties later realize were mistakes, but we act like the schools are criminals for wanting to give teachers a living wage and give kids modern buildings and educational systems?

How do so many people–some of them wealthier people who send their children to private schools– figure taxes to help schools are a bad thing? There are exceptions, like Don Christopher, a businessman who puts his funds where his heart is.  

We aren’t saying the schools and their administrators are perfect. We’ve spent plenty of time dissecting their faults, poring over every document. We aren’t happy about some of the lack of transparency we’ve seen. We don’t like that they don’t live-stream school board meetings. We don’t like how they rushed this election without time to make a stronger case and can’t  or won’t even name who solicited the highest donations. The list of projects the money will be spent on is not detailed enough. We question some of the ties between contractors and the board. We don’t like the fact that Christopher High School came in so over budget that its promised theater was never built, the track and field needed private funding to be completed and seven years after the building was finished, it needs repairs.

But after putting them through the investigative wringer, we see no reason not to put up another $170 million to keep our schools on the cutting edge. (For comparison’s sake, the Iraq War cost $720 million a day.) The bottom line is that we have to support our schools, whatever it takes. To do anything less is criminal. It’s the opposite of making America great.

In Finland and China teachers are as valued as doctors and CEOs. Those countries haven’t forgotten the value of great education. Rather than criticizing teachers unions we’d like to see the schools pay the way private companies do. That would guarantee the best and the brightest get the jobs and hold them.

If  you want to look at just the bottom line: this isn’t so much a tax as it is an investment. Nothing will make property value go up more than a great school system. Gilroy homes are already a bargain in Silicon Valley. Add more school buildings like Christopher High and more programs like Gilroy High’s biomedical training, and watch the values increase far more than the taxes.

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