Analyzing the State Tax System as it Relates to Funding Public Education By: ShaRon Davis

There are different theories of how taxes should be collected. One theory is the benefit theory which suggests that the people who benefit most from government programs should pay most tax. However, it is the poor who benefit most from government services and they have the least amount of money to pay tax. Taxing people based on the benefit principal would is considered a regressive tax because the poor would have to pay a larger percentage of their earnings than the rich (Brimley, Verstegen & Garfield, 2012) and because the rich can afford private education for their children they could avoid paying tax for public education altogether. The Benefit Tax Theory would not levy enough taxes to adequately fund education and because public education benefits the whole state and the entire country, everyone should provide financial support to educate the people. The goal of education is to prepare a citizenry to be productive, community contributors who are able to take care of themselves.

Another theory of taxation is the ability to pay theory. This tax seems to be the most equitable because it taxes people based on their earned income. The more income earned the more taxes paid. This tax is considered a progressive tax. However, during economic recessions it may not be adequate. The labor force decreases during economic recessions; less money is paid in taxes and more strain is placed on government fund programs that provide unemployment and disability insurances, food stamps and aid to families with dependent children (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families). To address the issue of adequacy different forms of taxes are still needed.

As previously stated the property tax was first collected to fund public education, however, because property values differed and the local communities paid for educating the students living within their community, schools did not receive equitable funding. Schools situated in areas with high property values received more funding and schools located in communities with low property values received less funding. All students need the same educational opportunities to acquire the skills that will prepare them to successfully compete within the market place. Therefore, each school district needs to receive enough money to provide an adequate education to its students. Different court rulings (Serrano v Priest, 1971) and legislative acts (Propositions 13, 1978 and Proposition 98, 1988) addressed the issue presented concerning property taxes and equity for tax payers and school districts. The court found that because public education benefits all state residents it should be a state function rather than a district function (Brimley, Verstegen & Garfield, 2012). Presently the state funds education from the monies it collects in taxes.

Neither the income tax nor the property tax provides sufficient funds to adequately educate students in public schools. Other forms of taxes have been suggested including the personal tax, the sales tax, the lottery, sumptuary taxes and severance taxes. It’s difficult to collect the personal tax because there is no way to make sure that people are being honest about their personal holdings. But personal taxes on automobiles and yachts are collected. They are conspicuous enough to identify and regulate. The sales tax provides revenue to states as well, but it is not a fair tax unless it excludes food and medicine. When it includes food and medicine, it is regressive in nature because the poor spend more of their earned income on food and medicine than the rich and therefore the poor suffer from this tax burden. Taxes should not be a burden that stops people from purchasing specific products (Brimley, Verstegen & Garfield, 2012).

There is disagreement over whether the Lottery is really a tax. Less than 2% of the money collected from the sale of Lottery tickets goes to fund education. If it is a tax, it is regressive because most Lottery tickets are purchased by the poor, who are willing to spend a few extra dollars to win a lot of cash (Brimley, Verstegen & Garfield, 2012). Sumptuary/excise taxes are sometimes referred to as” sin” taxes (Glencoe, 2005). These taxes are imposed by the government to regulate or control cigarette smoking and ingesting intoxicating beverages. Cigarettes are the most heavily taxed product in the United States. Taxes paid to the Federal, state and local governments on each pack of cigarettes is greater than the amount of money received by retailers, producers and farmers combined (RJ Reynolds, 2014). Also taxes on intoxicating beverages are high (Tax Foundation, 2014). Taxes on cigarettes and alcohol represent a large revenue source to the government. Therefore, the government stands to lose a lot of money if it bans the sale of cigarettes or alcohol. Additionally, we witnessed the birth and expansion of crime when the buying, selling, manufacturing and transporting of intoxicating beverages were banned during prohibition 1920 – 1930 (Hansen, 2014),

Severance taxes are imposed on the natural resources removed from our earth and they do not account for large revenues to the government. Of the 35 states that imposed the tax in 2010 only 16 realized more than 1.0 percent of their total tax revenue from this source. States that are rich in the natural resources that our industries use; oil, oil shale, coal, gas, refined petroleum, liquid hydrocarbons and minerals can collect this tax, however, these resources are not native to each of the fifty states. In summary, the income tax is probably the best source of revenue to use to fund public education. Education is expensive. Some student groups require additional program funding than other student groups. English Language learners, Students with disabilities (Special Education), foster care youth and students from low income families need more than the funding required for the three R’s. Also, there is a heavier concentration of students with special needs living in urban areas than in the suburbs creating a greater need for additional funding in the urban areas.
The least adequate funding source for public education is the personal tax. The personal tax cannot be easily identified and regulated. The cost incurred with identifying and regulating taxes on personal holdings (stocks, bonds, annuities and savings) would create more of an expense than the revenue collected (Brimley, Verstegen & Garfield, 2012).


Brimley, C., Verstegen, D. & Garfield, R. (2012). Financing Education in a Climate of Change. Pearson
Education Inc. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey

Author Glencoe/McGraw Hill. (2005)Economics- Principles and Practices

Hansen, D. (1997 – 2014). Alcohol: problems and solutions. Sociology Department State University of
New York Potsdam, N Y

Legislative Analysts Office (2005). Proposition 98

RJ Reynolds (2014).

Serrano v. Priest, 5 Cal.3d 584 (1971)

Tax Foundation (2014)


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Describe and analyze the relevance and impact of Proposition 13, AB 8, & Gann Limit on financing California education from the perspectives of equity and adequacy. By Sharon Davis and Tracey Washington

Public school funding is the largest program in the California State Budget receiving more than 40 percent of the state’s General Fund resources (CDE, 2014) and yet the $70 billion allocated to the public K – 12 schools in the 2013 – 2014 school year were not adequate.  The question of adequacy involves what is enough to educate a child and the answer differs based on the needs of the child.  In California most of the learners speak English as a second language and therefore need more money invested into programs specifically designed to teach them English before they can learn the common core subjects.  California also has this nation’s worst child poverty rate ( 2000) and children from low income families do not have the basic resources required for learning.  Therefore, the state which is charged with providing a public school system that offers all students an adequate education (Townley, Schmieder-Ramirez, & Wehmeyer, 2012) must provide monies to supplant as well as supplement instruction.  The following presentation will discuss three of the laws that dictate how public schools are funded in California.

 Proposition 13

Proposition 13 was meant to provide some ease for property owners.  Before proposition 13 the county assessor decided the worth of property and the tax.  This practice was subjective and biased ( 1993).   Proposition 13 sets limits to taxes at one percent of the property’s purchase price with taxes not increasing more than two percent in any given year.  What homeowners believed was in their favor also reduced taxes on commercial property; property used for business.  Additionally some tax laws (loopholes) enabled commercial property owners to avoid paying taxes usually based on the percentage of the business that an individual owned (, 1993).  A business owner who owns more than fifty percent of a jointly owned business pays the property taxes. Proposition 13 helped both homeowners and business owners but it hurt the state’s general fund from which school financing was derived because it decreased the funding to schools.  Proposition 13 maintains low tax rates on property until it is sold and then the tax owed is reassessed (California Tax, 2014).  When the market value of the property increases, property sells at higher rates and the additional tax revenue collected can help schools, but during the recent recession real estate values dropped and people were not selling their property so there was insufficient money to invest in education (public schools).

However, California is in a period economic recovery and Fund the UC, a student coalition, has a practical solution to Proposition 13 which is to do away with the two percent maximum yearly increase for commercial property assessments in favor of assessing the properties at their actual market value. For example, commercial and industrial property would be assessed differently from residential property through a tiered system.  It requires land and buildings owned by publicly traded companies to be reassessed every three years instead of when the assets change hands (Marois & Nash, 2011).  California has dropped in national ranking from one of the best public school systems in the country to the bottom.  Although this reform may not be welcomed by property owners of commercial and industrial businesses,  it is an equitable move to ensure more funding for public education because commercial and publicly traded companies have held an unnatural advantage for years as the value of their property has been grossly underestimated (Senior Editorial Board, 2014). The California Legislative Analyst’s Office projects that by doing this, the state tax revenue will increase by $4 to $5 billion, with $2 billion of that projected to be spent on education (Senior Editorial Board, 2014).  Currently, Fund the UC is lobbying state officials in Sacramento to put a Proposition 13 reform measure on the 2016 California ballot (Senior Editorial Board, 2014).


According to Martin (2000), “in the late 1970’s the Gann limit prohibited the Legislature from spending excess stashes of cash; while the goal of Proposition 13 (Article XIIIA) was to cut local property taxes, it still left taxpayers vulnerable to increases in other types of taxes, and the initiative did not limit state spending and local revenue growth (p. 1).”   Proposition 4 (Gann initiative, Article XIIIB) said to be the meat of Proposition 13, sets limits to the amount of money state and local governments can receive each year from taxes.  The government calculates annual operating budgets and collects taxes to fund these operations.  All taxes collected in excess of the budget should be returned to taxpayers.

According to Martin (2000), “eight years after the passage of Proposition 4, California experienced a revenue flow of $1.1 billion over the Gann limit. Governor George Deukmejian wanted to spend $400 million on schools and refund $700 million to taxpayers, the Legislature refused to pass the bill authorizing the education appropriation (Martin, 2000).”   Shortly thereafter, two initiatives were placed on the ballot to fine-tune the Gann limit; Proposition 98 of 1988 allowed schools to receive Gann limit refund revenues up to four percent of schools’ minimum funding base and Proposition 111 of 1990,  altered how the Gann limit is calculated.  Proposition 111 added K-14 public school enrollment rates to the population formula correcting  school-funding inequities and dedicating half of the excess revenues to taxpayers and the other half to schools.  It also declared that the Gann limit would trigger only if tax proceeds were in excess for two consecutive fiscal years (Martin, 2000).

The government calculates the cost of living increases as the change in the California per capita personal income (CDE., 1978; Martin, 2000).  Gann sets limits to appropriations on some, but not all appropriation limitations and some monies collected in excess of appropriations is not returned to the taxpayer.  State subventions for example are exempt from appropriation limitations, as well as debt service, appropriations for mandates ordered by the courts or the federal government (Martin, 2000).  Additional monies collected to respond to emergencies such as earthquakes, fires, floods are not subject to appropriation limitations.  But, school operating budgets, faculty, instructional materials, school facilities for K-12 education and community colleges are subject to appropriation limitations.  Pre-K budgets were not delineated in this discussion.  The money allocated to the operation of public schools is not adequate.  The question of equity seems to be a question of how much money is necessary to operate the schools adequately.  How much are people willing to pay to educate future generations?  This question is paramount because the workers and leaders today must be replaced in order for this nation to continue to maintain and achieve.  Some of the tax burden experienced by homeowners must be offset by tax dollars from businesses that pay little if any taxes toward public education. An important note on GANN; it is possible for the government to adjust the appropriation limits when more tax money is collected and therefore not need to return money to taxpayers, but it is not clear when and how this decision is made.

AB 8

After the passage of Proposition 13, educational finance was re-addressed, with school districts  receiving a portion of the property tax (through the AB 8 allocation formula) and direct payments from the state, and other sources (Chapman, 2006; Digest Key, 2009-2010). This transaction reduced schools’ reliance on property tax revenues and increased the state’s share of responsibility for school finance (Jayamaran, 2006).  AB 8 is an attempt to develop another method of collecting and allocating funds for public education.  It is a  new plan that will be more transparent and clearly state the formula to be used, unlike the system that is used today.  This current system is considered complex, irrational and burdensome and its complexity is an obstacle to transparency.  Therefore the new plan produces an easy to understand allocation system that will support student learning (Digest Key, 2009-2010).  School funding in the west is lower than in other regions.  Assumptions that schools in these states can reach ambitious goals for students by reallocating existing resources may not be valid.  Studies of best practices substantiate what works to adequately educate children which includes funding pre-k  programs, reducing class sizes, increasing professional development for teachers, providing tutors for struggling students and providing access to computer technologies.  All these practices require additional funding.  Adequacy funding formulas expose the gap between what schools now receive and what they really need, particularly those schools facing the costs of educating large numbers of students with special needs (Townley, Schmieder-Ramirez, & Wehmeyer, 2012).


California (2014)

California Taxpayers’ Association (1993)

Chapman, J. I. (2006). Proposition 13: Some unintended consequences. Public Policy Institute

     of California, p. 1-31,

Jayamaran, N. (2006). Schools finance in California and the proposition 98

guarantee. California Budget Project,  p. 1-31, Sacramento:CA.

Marois, M. B. & Nash, J. (2011). California schools suffering as proposition 13 tax cap breeds

fiscal chaos. Bloomberg, p. 1-3.

Martin, L. (2000). Exploring the Gann Limit: Then and now. California Taxpayers’ Association,

  1. 1-6,

Senior Editorial Board (2014). Reform prop. 13 to fund education. The Daily Californian,

  1. 1-10, http://www.dailycal,org/2014/02/11/reform-prop-13-fund-education

Townley, A.J., Schmieder-Ramirez, J.H., & Wehmeyer, L.B. (2012).  School finance: A california  perspective, 9th Edition, Dubuque, Iowa:  Kendall/Hunt Publisher

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What’s achievable with Professional Learning Communities?

“Leaders need a compelling, internalized, informed, and defensible set of core values and beliefs about good schools and good
school leadership: that is, about knowing each child and family well; about what children should know and be able to do; about educational equity and democracy; about authentic learning, teaching and assessment; and about building a professional learning community, with a shared purpose, and collective responsibility for results:” (

Using collaborative inquiry to transform teaching, learning, …; a study conducted by Colly, M. Winkleman, P. Garcia, R  and Guilkey-Amado, J. 2009 demonstrates via developing a collaborative professional learning community that these goals are achievable.  But establishing a collaborative professional learning community is more challenging then you might imagine.  It is important that the group members share a commitment to reform,  possess similar definitions of the program and be willing to share student data with an open mind so that the best practices of the individual group members can be used to help all students.  This study focused on a plan of equity; acknowledging the truth that as long as teachers continue to work in isolation of each other, not all students will receive the same instructional experiences.    A plan addressing equity requires instructors to deliver information that is important to the learner and to have “specific program structure and standards to set the foundation for all course and program designs” (Collay, M.,& Winkleman, P, Garcia, R. Guilkey-Amado, J. 2009).

The results of this study (Student data) were positive the collaborative professional learning community achieved its goals.  This was also my experience in 2010 when I participated within a collaborative professional learning community to complete an action research project focused on achieving that 95% of students in a Senior Government and Economics class correctly write an essay.  Collaborative professional learning communities become effective instructional teams.   Establishing a collaborative professional learning community team requires teachers to reexamine their assumptions and ideas about what students should know and how students should learn, maintain an open mind and be willing to implement the best practices of a colleague within their individual class  rooms when the data documents success.

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Educational Leadership and Planning Technology

One thing that became clear to me after I read Educational Leadership and Planning Technology (Picciano, A. 2011) was that our school takes on more than it can handle.  This is not the first time I’ve been reminded that in order to successfully move forward it is necessary to let go of the past.  Another time that this idea surfaced was after I read All Systems Go (Fullan, M. 2010).  Michael Fullan prescribed that when making changes at the schools educational leaders must confront what they are willing to let go.  Resources are limited and some things must be discontinued in order to do new things, but what happens in some school systems is that new programs are stacked on top of old programs and there is not enough resources; people or money, to do an adequate job in all programs.  Sometimes teachers will pick and choose which programs they will use which continues the plight of inequity; causing some students to benefit more while other students benefit less.  Picciano states that bringing digital technology into the school works best when it is a collaborative endeavor and when educational leaders establish a system that includes regular training and maintenance which reminded me of the introduction of technology at the school where I teach.  Teachers are now required to take role on computers,and  the has a school public website so that parents and students can email the instructors, teachers are also encouraged to post course syllabus and homework assignments to answer frequently asked questions.  Most of the correspondence between administrators, support staff and instructional staff is done via email and the school site council hired an in house certificated computer network specialist.  But when the funding we received from our California Partnership Academies was cut the computer specialist position was cut.  No more in-house specialist and requirements to maintain the same level of technological duties and add more exists.  Currently school staff  contact district level technology specialists to maintain the computers and copiers and teachers must avail themselves to pay as you go training to learn new information about technology.  But the estimated arrival time of district level specialist can be as long as two months and we no raise in salary and continued inflation, a lot of educators cannot afford to pay for their own training.  The teachers who are interested, motivated and able choose to invest in technology and the others don’t, sounds familiar.  Also our available software is outdated and there is no money to purchase more.  Teachers lack the incentive to usher in new technology or to use new technology in instruction.  Although teachers hear that technology is the way of the future, the necessary collaboration to successfully move into the future is still a work in progress.


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Common Core and English Language Arts

Chapter One of Thinking in Pictures (Grandin,T. 2006) was the perfect read to lay the foundation for American Literature via common core standards.  By reading Dr. Grandin’s story, my students were able to infer, delineate, evaluate and integrate; all critical thinking skills that the common core standards require.  The best part about introducing this reading into my 11th grade American Literature class, however, was the clarity and compassion manifested within us concerning one of the students in the class who is diagnosed with autism.  The students and I were able to delineate that the student in our class probably excels in verbal logic thinking skills because he knows a plethora of words, loves history, and speaks intellectually but has practically illegible handwriting.  The students were able to reflect daily in their journals about what they read and use specific facts as evidence to support their suppositions.  For example the students understood inference when Dr. Grandin explained that not all people diagnosed with autism excel in spatial visualization as she does.  They explained that she probably believed that the reader would think that all people diagnosed with autism have the same ability to think in 3-D pictures because she can.  The students understood that when they made this comment about what she may have thought they were also inferring.   The students understood the value of reading the entire assigned passage before attempting to answer any reading questions.  One of the questions I asked them when I gave the reading assignment was what’s the author’s gender.  Only one student saw the movie about the Doctor’s life and I asked him not to tell his peers.  Most students including myself guessed that Temple Grandin was a man.  Our decision was based on our bias about the type of work that a man does and the type of work that a woman does.  It was not until the end of the first chapter that Dr. Grandin shared a statement from one of her followers in which a reference to her used the feminine pronoun.  We spent three hours reading this chapter aloud with each student reading one paragraph.  While reading we discussed the author’s tone, the intended audience, and the purpose of the writing.  Reading this article together helped us solidify our student/teacher bonding as this was the first week of a 5 week summer session.  The common core standards ask that teachers of American Literature use non-fiction writings, English Learning Standards ask that English teachers use culturally relevant writings, Thinking in Pictures addresses both request adequately.  After reading the student reflective journals I can smile knowing that their academic experience this week was beneficial, enlightening and enjoyable.


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Curate – Emotional Security

ImageThis pictograph is very important to me because it tells a story of the journey that began for me in January 1995.  I had a habit of depending on people for my emotional security.  This is not a good practice because people change, and they die.  First my grandmother died, then my mother and then my great aunt and I felt all alone.  I was plagued with misery and depression; a total lack of gratitude.  I’d been an avid church goer since I was a child.  I always believed in God I just didn’t believe that God favored me.  I asked Him to let my grandmother, mother and aunt continue living but He didn’t.  Since God was not doing what I asked of Him I decided to take matters into my own hands and do whatever I wanted.  Needless to say, I found some short lived happiness but I always returned to depression.  I continued to pray and study my bible.  One evening on my way to bible study, feeling sad, I asked God to help me and while I was stopped at a red light I had a vision.  In the vision I was running scared and approaching a cliff.  Behind me was chaos and confusion and in front of me was peace and security, but between me and the other side was a big abyss.  How could I get to the other side?  All of a sudden a cross drifted down connecting the place where I stood to the place where I wanted to go.  Although crossing over was scary I longed the peace and security on the other side.  The cross was my life savor.  The cross where Jesus gave His life for me.  Now when I am feeling sad. anxious or afraid I look to the cross.  I look to Calvary and I am full of gratitude.  I no longer ask God to do this or do that.  Today I present myself to God as a living vessel to be used according to His will.  Today I am happy all the time, even when life goes awry, I believe that “all things happen for the good of those who are called according to God’s will and for His purpose” and I have Peace.



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Changing the way that public schools receive their funding

A change from the past.  The Los Angeles Unified School District is proposing to give more money to the most needy students which it defines as English learners, foster students and students living in poverty.  This is a change from giving an equal amount of money to all schools based on its student population.  The current allocation of money has not served to equalize (provide equity) to all students.  The playing field consists of several  communities some having more resources available to help their residents and although the state gives an equal amount of money to each school the class rooms, and other resources available at the schools look totally different.  Read about the new program below and tell me, do you think this is a good idea and can it provide equity to all students?

Superintendent John E. Deasy presented his administration’s revised budget proposal for the 2014-15 school year to the Board of Education at Tuesday’s meeting. The revised budget includes updates based upon input from numerous parent, student and community stakeholders. The budget aligns with the new Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and the funding provided by the
Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which commits to provide additional funds for students with the highest needs through a
justice-based approach.  “We listened very carefully to parents, students and community stakeholders,” said Dr. Deasy. “The revised budget includes a remarkable amount of investments in our students and human capital so we can better serve all of our students, especially those with the highest needs.” The Superintendent’s budget recommendations proposes no new cuts or reductions, and attempts to accomplish three things:
1. Serve the youth identified as the highest need through the LCFF Formula (low income students, English learners and foster youth) in a justice-based approach.
2. Invest in LAUSD employees through compensation and support to help provide services to our youth.
3. Propose a balanced three-year initial trajectory to restorations and improvements aligned with the LCAP, board
directions and input from hundreds of community members and survey comments.
In addition, the board adopted an “Aggregate Student Need Index” to identify high-needs schools that need more support through
LCFF, and committed to a plan to better engage parents across the District.
The board will vote on the 2014-15 LCAP and budget on June 24. An official public hearing will be held on June 17, where the public
can provide additional comments on the revised budget and LCAP.

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June 16, 2014 · 12:42 am

A Group in Crisis: Strategies for Educating and Empowering Young Men of Color

“When we know better, we do better”  I was fortunate enough to attend a conference on Monday June 9, 2013 designed to help teachers close the achievement gap between male students of color (black and brown) and white male students.  Some of the ideas discussed were the teachers preconceived notions about black and brown males; invalidated  assumptions that tell the teacher that these students do not value education and are content with being gang bangers, drug dealers and criminals. Teachers often rationalize their unwarranted assumptions based on the lack of student work completed from black and brown males and/or the fact that the work which is completed is of poor quality.  Therefore, the problem is literacy not apathy, most black and brown male students are Standard English Learners (SELs).  Black and brown male students have a language deficiency because most of them do not speak, or write in Standard English.  They do not understand why the teacher can understand what they say, but mark them unsatisfactory when they write what they say, and they are not validated for what they do write.  Black and brown students began to feel hopeless.  They believe that the teacher does not like them and that no matter what assignment they submit the teacher will grade them negatively.  Its time for teachers to acknowledge the problem.  The educational community previously identified a language deficiency as the cause of poor student achievement, but the program lost funding and has been implemented at some elementary schools and only a few middle schools with the major rate of attribution among black and brown students occurring between the 9th and 10th grade.  Advocates for teachers acknowledging the language deficiency at the high school level are told by English teachers that what they teach is Standard English in their classroom and that the SEL student can learn it by following their lead.  But what the English teachers who respond this way fail to realize is that they speak, write, and grade in standard English which is foreign to the Black and Brown student.  This reminds me of the scenario of explaining a difficult concept by speaking louder and louder.  The listener still doesn’t understand.  SEL students must be identified and provided the services that will help cure the language deficiency.  Once they learn to translate their language to standard English their academic achievement will improve.

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The Prayer of Saint Frances

The Prayer of Saint Frances

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, the truth;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

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June 4, 2014 · 7:01 am

The Peace Prayer of St. Francis

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