The Chesterfield County School Board continues to work on finalizing its FY 2015 operating budget. Board members are hopeful that this work will begin the process of reinvesting in public education in Chesterfield County.
Realizing that Chesterfield County Public Schools may never have the per-pupil funding rate of surrounding localities, School Board members must be strategic about how we reinvest in our school division so that we can meet expectations others have placed on us while moving forward to achieve our goals. The Superintendent’s budget proposal improves employee compensation and benefits through a 1 percent salary increase and doing our part to strengthen the Virginia Retirement System; addresses the pupil-teacher ratio by restoring more than 100 teaching positions; and provides more academic support for students through career and technical education and expanded electives.
The proposal we are considering, however, is not fully funded based on current revenue projections provided by the local and state governments. After five years of budget cuts totaling more than $60 million, we are wary of the damage that more cuts will do – to our present and to our future.
Public education is a worthy investment for state and local governments, providing social and economic benefits and cost savings down the road. Research shows that individuals who graduate and have access to quality education are more likely to find gainful employment, have stable families and be active and productive citizens. They are also less likely to commit serious crimes, place high demands on the public health-care system or enroll in welfare assistance programs. For example:
• High school dropouts are more than twice as likely to be unemployed and three times more likely to receive welfare assistance, costing billions nationally each year for government-funded assistance programs. • Decreasing the number of high school dropouts by half would nationally produce $45 billion per year in net economic benefit to society. • 41 percent of all prisoners have not completed high school, compared to 18 percent of the general adult population. o Annual cost of incarcerating an individual: $32,000 o Annual cost of educating CCPS student: $8,755 • A 5 percent increase in the male graduate rate could save $5 billion in crime-related expenses. • Mortality decreases for every additional year in schooling by 7.2 percent for men and 6 percent for women. • Graduating from high school improves the quality of health, reduces dependence on public health programs by 60 percent, and cuts by six times the rate of alcohol abuse. • Average annual public health costs are $2,700 per dropout, $1,000 per high school graduate, and $170 per college graduate.
Our community demands safe schools. Our parents want great teachers, smaller class sizes and expanded course offerings. Our business and higher education leaders expect that our graduates will be college- and career-ready.
What we need now is a discussion about the future of public education in Chesterfield County. Will we continue to attract new families and new businesses? If we want the answer to be yes, then we must ask these questions:
• What makes a high-quality educational system? • How much does it cost? • How much are we as a community willing to invest in one?
The School Board hopes that you will join us in this important community conversation. Here are some ways you can participate:
• Email or call your School Board and Board of Supervisor representative. Contact information can be found here: http://mychesterfieldschools.com/wp-content/uploads/budget_files/fy2015/budget_proposal_sheetFY2015.pdf. • Sign up to speak at 6:30 p.m. during the School Board’s Feb. 11 public hearing by calling 748-1897 or by registering with the clerk at the beginning of the public hearing. • Sign up to speak at the Board of Supervisors public hearing at 6:30 p.m. on March 26 in the Public Meeting Room.