Ann Christenson op ed August 14, 2015

Poll: Locals place value on education

Was it backlash from Governor Branstad’s recent veto of the Iowa Legislature’s education bill or simply Iowans’ long, strong regard for the importance of learning? When asked to choose their preferences for tax spending from seven categories, people at the 2015 Johnson County Fair voted resoundingly for education.

At the People’s Coalition for Social, Environmental and Political Responsibility booth, fair-goers used kernels of corn to select among Economic Development (including jobs), Environment (including renewable energy sources), Health Care, Veterans’ Benefits, Nuclear Disarmament & Diplomacy and Military (excluding Veteran’s Benefits), in addition to Education.

Nearly 900 fair-goers over the age of 16 voted with four kernels each. The four could be used in any way the voter desired — all in one category or spread out over several.

Education was a decisive first with 938 votes; environment took a distant second with 650. Of the 3,516 votes cast, veterans benefits and health care were in a near tie, 538 and 528, respectively. Economy (375) and military (300) lagged, while diplomacy (187) trailed far behind.

This admittedly non-scientific poll was conducted Monday through Thursday of the fair by coalition member organizations: 100Grannies. org, PEACE Iowa, Iowa Physicians for Social Responsibility and Veterans for Peace. The voting machine was a clever device designed and built by 100Grannies member Donna Rupp.

Although 26.7 percent of votes went for education, a peek under the category nametag revealed that only 5 percent of federal 2014 taxes was spent on education. While only a meager 8.5 percent votes supported the military, in reality an overwhelming 34 percent of federal expenditures go to the Pentagon budget, nuclear weapons production and foreign military assistance.

Does the appearance of the environment in second place signal a trending acceptance of climate change and humanity’s role in it? As health care and veterans’ benefits go hand-in-hand, are folks asking for something more than the Affordable Care Act and Medicare/Medicaid? Does the placement of diplomacy deep in the cellar reflect a public sense that diplomacy doesn’t work?

These questions and more may be pondered and debated endlessly, but one other question stands out: Do our elected officials pay any attention to the people?

We wonder.

Ann Christenson of Iowa City is a member of 100Grannies.org.

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