School prayer, education, teaching, and taxes

In America we rightly declare, ``In God we trust,'' and ``one nation, under God.'' Permitting students a special moment to acknowledge that fact in prayer at the beginning of the school day can hardly be any more dangerous to them than is the daily opening of the congressional day in Washington with a prayer by Congress's own private chaplain is to our senators and congressmen [``Protecting religion,'' June 6]. It is equally hard to believe that religion is going to suffer as a result of such free exercise on the part of all those so inclined to begin their day.

And let us not forget that those so-called public schools to which the great majority of us send our children exist at our expense and are paid for by us, and we as a people, and not the Supreme Court, should have a great deal more to say about what our children can and cannot do in them. Kenneth C. Lane Puyallup, Wash.

As one who has had training in kindergarten teaching, I agree with Rushworth Kidder's thoughts on preschools in his article June 3 ``Bending the twig: the need for preschools.'' The child who has had experience in a structured learning situation with other children in preschool gets off to a better start in kindergarten and finds school easier.

His conclusion that universal preschool should be provided bears some additional consideration, however. To be universally provided usually means taxpayer-funded and legally mandated.

Thus, ``preschool'' probably would become part of a school system and would no longer be ``preschool.'' The parent then will be deprived of choosing whether he wants structured learning care, day care, or a sitter for his young child. Dona M. Thompson Traverse City, Mich.

Thank you for the thoughtful and timely article on young teachers leaving the teaching profession [``What prompts so many young teachers to get out of the profession?'' June 21]. I have taught for 15 years at a variety of levels from elementary school through university instruction. My advice to any bright young person contemplating teaching as a career is to choose other professional options. Teaching in contemporary America is not only stressful, unrewarding, unfulfilling, and frustrating, but an educator, most often, is ``managed'' by an incompetent, poorly educated, and ill-equipped administrator. Jerry Button Portland, Ore.

The article ``More states ready to forgive tax offenders -- but one time only,'' May 15, by Lucia Mouat provides a concise analysis of the recent experience in the states with the tax amnesty concept. As the article states, tax amnesties in both my own state of Illinois and Massachusetts were much more successful than predicted. They raised substantial sums for the states and put numerous taxpayers back on the rolls.

I believe the benefits of a tax amnesty at the federal level would be even greater than they were in my state and the other states that have had successful tax amnesty periods.

Given the fact that the federal deficit will likely exceed $212 billion this year, the $20 billion in new revenues Ms. Mouat's story indicates might be raised is certainly necessary.

For that reason, on Jan. 21, 1985, I introduced S 203, the Federal Tax Delinquency Amnesty Act of 1985.

My bill creates a six-month amnesty period to give delinquent taxpayers an opportunity to pay what they owe.

It would forgive criminal and civil penalties, and 50 percent of the interest due on that amount as an incentive to do so. After the amnesty period, penalties for violations of the tax laws would be increased by 50 percent, and 3,000 new IRS agents would be added to improve the service's tax-collection efforts.

The federal government may be considered more sophisticated in its tax-collection practices than the states.

The sad truth is that the Internal Revenue Service estimates that as much as 20 percent -- over $91 billion -- of the taxes legally owed and due in 1986 will not be collected, up from $81 billion in 1981.

Think of it! Even if the budget package that passed the Senate last week is enacted without change, next year's deficit is estimated to exceed $175 billion. But if that $91 billion could be collected, we would literally cut that deficit in half without costing the huge majority of honest taxpayers one penny.

I am not claiming that a tax amnesty would result in the collection of the entire tax gap. However, even $20 billion represents an increase in the amount of deficit reduction the Senate-passed budget calls for in 1986 by over a third.

The experience with tax amnesties in Illinois, Massachusetts, and other states proves it will work at the federal level.

In fact, the state experience provides an indication that results could be even better.

Internal Revenue Service has opposed the tax amnesty concept, arguing that it hurts the honest taxpayers and encourages cheating.

The facts are, however, that overall tax compliance is only about 80 percent, that it has been declining for years, that an increasing number of Americans view the tax system as unfair, and that, under current conditions, the IRS will never collect most unpaid taxes. Sen. Alan J. Dixon Washington

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none individually acknowledged. All are subject to condensation. Please address letters to ``readers write.''

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