Teaching taxpayers

BY ART CULLEN

Not all Republicans think like members of the Iowa Legislature. A friend drove up in his pickup Monday to endorse our Friday editorial in defense of public employees. He is solid in the GOP. He is a hunter. He is a coach. And he is tired of the assaults. He coached five sports to make ends meet. He roofed and painted houses so he could teach. His goal: “We want to make taxpayers, not tax takers.”

The Storm Lake School Board last week settled with the teachers for a 1% pay raise next year, because that’s all the legislature would allow. Plus, the legislature stripped public employees from the right to bargain over benefits such as health insurance. Teachers are sapping our strength, so the implication goes.

We expect people to speak and write well. It takes that to be a citizen. We expect them to know how government works. We expect them to cherish the right to vote. We expect people to be self-starters and self-sustainers. We expect that a high school graduate will understand biology, how a corn plant grows in Iowa, how it feeds a hog and why. We expect them to learn a trade.

Teachers do all this. They create taxpayers, not taxtakers.

They teach the children of immigrants to master English while maintaining their Spanish. They teach about how a law is made. They teach how to add and subtract and think logically. They teach manners. They teach parents how to be parents. They create citizens.

That sounds to us like old-fashioned conservative Iowa values: Don’t give them the fish, teach them how to fish.

That takes money.

But it doesn’t take as much money to pay a teacher how to teach fishing as it does to pay for welfare, for food stamps, for prisons and courts. Ignorance breeds all of those costs. Education, generally, frees people from chains.

If we expect Iowa to be full of citizens, we have to shape them. We ask teachers to do that job for us.

Or, we can pay the costs through our correctional system.

Or through weaker communities where people can’t sustain themselves.

At the current rate, Iowa isn’t paying for what it values.

Quick response

We were happy to drive by College Street last week and see it with a fresh coating of asphalt. Resident Jesse Barnett complained for years about that street being a shambles, it being but a one-block stub that few people pay heed to. Barnett was told at the city council meeting that he should be patient as the city meets other priorities. You can imagine how that went over with a frustrated man.

To the city’s credit, within a couple weeks his street was taken care of.

It took some shouting and pounding, but it got done quickly.

What could not get done during the past three years of the former city manager’s tenure got done within a matter of days of City Manager Keri Navratil assuming office. We can hope this is a sign of things to come.

Federal-state conflict

Courts exist to render decisions in the absence of personal or political agreement. So it is with immigration law. Congress cannot agree on a solution. The Iowa Supreme Court is then forced, as it was, into contortions to arrive at a decision that appreciates the subtleties of federalism: local authorities are not allowed to prosecute federal crimes, such as identity theft or forgery. Just as the Storm Lake Police Department does not investigate federal tax cases, so it cannot arrest someone for using a fake ID to get a job. That is essentially what the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in the case of Martha Martinez, who was charged with identity theft as an undocumented immigrant seeking a job.

One would think that police and prosecutors in the course of their duties could prosecute someone for ID theft, now a common crime. But we understand why they cannot because it involved, at its root, the violation of a federal civil statute.

It would follow that local law enforcement agencies under Iowa law are barred from doing what the Trump Administration demands: that local police enforce federal immigration laws. Storm Lake Police Chief Mark Prosser objects based on practical grounds: that local cops have enough on their plates without rounding up otherwise law-abiding, nice undocumented immigrants. He also appreciates that it is the job of Immigration Customs and Enforcement to carry out these federal duties. It would appear that the Supreme Court is telling Prosser, and other law enforcement officials, that they shall not do what the Trump Administration calls for. And this is all because Congress refuses to adopt an immigration policy that works for Storm Lake, Iowa, in the 21st Century.