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GUEST COMMENTARY: School Board should say no to EEZs

Tuesday, October 9, 2012 | 11:38 a.m. CDT

Open letter to the Columbia School Board:

The Columbia School Board must report to the Columbia City Council, "NO to EEZs." EEZs, or Enhanced Enterprise Zones, take public funds and give them to private CEOs who move their businesses into EEZs. EEZ money comes from cutting funds for our police and fire departments, our public library, and our city's infrastructure.

And the Columbia School Board is being asked to quietly stand by and do nothing while EEZs give away chunks of our public school funds. This school money giveaway is terrible public policy. It shows disrespect for public education, when education is more important than ever.

Each School Board member received a copy of the book, "The Great American Jobs Scam, Corporate Tax Dodging and the Myth of Job Creation" by Greg LeRoy. It can be read free online at www.goodjobsfirst.org. Especially important is Chapter 5, "Property Tax Abatements and Your Local School," which says that a well-educated workforce is by far the most important thing companies look for. EEZs take public money away from the very same school which are educating future employees and entrepreneurs. EEZs erode state revenue as well, leaving less state money for public schools. Two MU professors of economics, Joseph Haslag and Judith Stallmann, have sharply criticized EEZs as either having little positive effect or being bad for Columbia.

Two successive Missouri state auditors have severely criticized the Missouri Department of Economic Development for not providing data that shows their tax abatement programs are viable. And the local economic development group, Regional Economic Development, has not provided such data either.

For many reasons, EEZs are bad for Columbia. But taking money away from our public schools would hit Columbia the hardest. If the Columbia School Board stands by and does nothing while big business is given a free lunch on Columbia's public school tax dollars, the public will lose trust in the School Board.

However, if the School Board reports to the Columbia City Council, "NO to EEZs," many in Columbia will agree and support the School Board. Columbia citizens living in the proposed falsely-called blight EEZs will support the School Board. Citizens who want to protect our public funds for city services, city infrastructure, and good schools, will support the School Board.

The public voted to give public money to the Columbia School Board to run the schools and we want that money to be used for that purpose. The Columbia School Board must report to the Columbia City Council, "NO to EEZs."

Linda Green is a Columbia resident. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.


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