Letter: Proof of WIC support
We are writing this letter in response to Mr. Ted Williams (“Supervisors justified in holding the line,” Readers Write, May 22. My name is Angelo Letizia and I am a U.S. history teacher at Gloucester High School, and I am writing along with Brian McGovern, also a U.S. history teacher at GHS and president of the Gloucester Education Association. At the March 27 Gloucester Board of Supervisors’ meeting, I stated that my family qualifies for the WIC program, which Mr. McGovern reiterated in his last letter to the editor. Mr. Williams wanted proof of this fact, which can be found at the Virginia Department of Health website. Here is the address: http://www.vahealth.org/DCN/General%20Info/eligibility.htm. There are five members of my household, including myself. Two of those members are under the age of five and one is three months old. We fall well below the income threshold which is $51,687. What is the debate? We DO NOT take the benefit which we qualify for because we feel there are more deserving people.
Mr. Williams also questioned why the citizens of Gloucester County should pay more taxes when the enrollment is declining. What he does not seem to realize is that the cost of living has increased and wages have decreased and/or remained stagnant. So, even with fewer students, the price of supplies and necessities such as heating and fuel increases, and salaries become inadequate to keep up with the rising cost of living. Furthermore, how many in this county have approached Delegate Hodges and Senator Norment requiring an explanation for the ever-growing unfunded mandates, from SOL testing to the latest requirement to teach Financial Literacy to all high school students? This latest state requirement mandates the hiring of several new teachers, but not a penny of funding from the General Assembly. Tell our lawmakers in the state to end the unfunded mandates. If they want it, then they should pay for it.
Locally, taxes are vital to the maintenance and promotion of the public good. A better education system has been shown to lower crime and incarceration rates, lower rates of teen pregnancy, lower obesity, promote civic behaviors and active citizenship, promote charitable giving and increase social capital for all people in a locality. Who would not want these things? Who does not want lower crime and obesity and better prenatal and postnatal health (which will help lower overall health care costs in the long run)?
There is a bigger issue at stake here: The reluctance of some in this county, indeed in this nation, to pay a fair share of taxes. Mr. Williams lamented the fact that Gloucester citizens pay exorbitant rates. Gloucester real estate taxes are hardly exorbitant. The median household income of Gloucester County in 2012 stood at $62,067, while the Virginia average stood at $61,741. The average property tax rate for Gloucester County is $1,257, which is $600 lower than the average rate for the state of Virginia. When measured for median property tax in dollars, Virginia has the lowest property tax rates of the East Coast states, except for South Carolina and Delaware, both of which have subpar school systems.
We understand times are hard for everyone. Yet, investment into human capital, such as students, is one of the best methods to improve the national, state and local economy.
Lastly, Mr. Williams stated that teachers and staff who attended the budget hearing did so ‘dutifully’ at the behest of the school board. It is absurd to think that teachers and staff do not have opinions of their own, on behalf of public education and, in some cases, their own children. Mr. Williams further implied that those who spoke for fully funding the school board’s request were largely school staff. There were also parents and students who spoke as well and their numbers (total supporters) clearly outnumbered the opposition.
The truth always prevails. No longer will the anti-education (and often misleading) rhetoric of a vocal minority go unanswered.