The board of education of Cedar Falls, Iowa, approved $61,940 on Aug. 8 to remodel space inside Kaio Church. The district plans to lease space from the church, which is next door to Southdale Elementary School, for two preschool classrooms, but the building will need a handicap accessible restroom, emergency exits, and other improvements to bring it up to city code. The district also plans to pay for about $5,000 of asbestos abatement which is not included in the approved bid.
On Aug. 12, FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor wrote a letter to the Cedar Falls Community School district, telling them, "While we understand the need for the District to find a suitable space for the preschool and to ensure that it is up to code, it is wholly inappropriate for the District to pay for substantial improvements to a church facility." She noted the improvements will be permanent, "would constitute a public subsidy of the church," and would be a "substantial benefit at public expense" to a place of worship. Gaylor also quoted Article I, Section 3 of the Iowa state constitution, which says, "Nor shall any person be compelled to . . . pay tithes, taxes, or other rates for building or repairing places of worship." Gaylor also asked the district to find an alternative location without any religious affiliation for the preschool classroom.
The superintendent, David Stoakes, told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier that he does not see any conflict between the district's actions and the law.
The Courier published an editorial on Aug. 17 calling our concerns "unfounded." They say, "We assume the district wouldn't have heard from Gaylor had it come to an agreement to lease space from a bar or strip joint."
Let the Courier and the Superintendent know that this plan violates the Iowa Constitution's definition of the separation of church and state!
Imagine the outcry were preschoolers to meet in a rented Muslim mosque, and taxpayers were further billed to make permanent improvements! Young students, much less four year olds, simply cannot be expected to differentiate between going to public school and going to church! Their first exposure to our public schools will be at a Christian church with crosses and religious trimmings.
There has been no "sunlight" about the proposed further cost to taxpayers in renting the facility. There have been no assurances that the $62,000-plus in improvements at public expense even will be subtracted from the cost of the rental! The District owns school property no longer being used for public education — it should be using its resources to ensure a secular venue for the education of impressionable 4-year-olds.
David Stoakes, Superintendent
1002 W First St
Cedar Falls, IA 50613
The WCF Courier
Letters to the Editor
P.O. Box 540
501 Commercial Street
Waterloo, Iowa 50704
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More information can be found in the WCF Courier:
8/9/11: Cedar Falls Board of Education picks preschool site
8/16/11: Cedar Falls preschool plan draws fire from Atheist group