‘Consent of governed’ sought for Dist. 51

Most Americans recall that the Declaration of Independence states that all men have the right to “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

But how many recall the next section of our founding document that says: “That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the Consent of the Governed”?

School District 51 officials are considering exercising that provision — asking the consent of those it serves to increase the district’s property taxes to offset some of the revenue losses of the past few years. Without endorsing the tax increate, we hope residents of the Western Slope’s largest school district will give the idea careful consideration and not reflexively say, “No more taxes, period.”

As we celebrate the 235th anniversary of our nation’s independence, it’s worth noting that those who rebelled against Great Britain didn’t reject taxes out of hand. They fought against taxes that were imposed on them without their input or representation.

They recognized that government had a role, not only securing our rights, but in providing services to its citizens. Some of the founders, notably Thomas Jefferson — primary author of the Declaration of Independence — were early advocates of a publicly funded school system.

Jefferson understood that a republic such as was being created then couldn’t survive without educated citizens. “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be,” he wrote.

As local residents consider the tax plan that District 51 is contemplating, they should also ask themselves what kind of future they envision for this valley. A vibrant economy depends on a solid education system to recruit new businesses, provide quality workers for those businesses and attract new residents.

Short-changing public education in tough economic times is like cleaning out your pantry when food prices get high, but doing nothing to refurbish it for the future.

As the column below makes clear, simply throwing additional money at public schools doesn’t guarantee academic improvement. However, cutting teaching positions and school days, as District 51 has had to do in recent years, is a sure-fire way to degrade public education rather than improve it.

With that in mind, the possibility of raising property taxes in the neighborhood of $11 a month on a $200,000 home to help restore some of what’s been lost in this recession is hardly an extreme burden on taxpayers. It’s the equivalent of two or three mocha lattes at your favorite coffee shop, just a little more than the price of a ticket for the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

In the 21st century, it’s difficult to imagine anyone engaged in the pursuit of happiness without a solid educational foundation. And District 51 is on the right track in seeking approval — the consent of those governed, if you will — for a possible ballot measure to boost the educational enterprise in this valley.


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