An investment in knowledge pays the best interest

The following letter appeared in local newspapers and is shared with us here by the author Ron Areglado

On April 8, 2014, Charlestown, Hopkinton and Richmond residents will vote whether to approve the Chariho School District’s 2014-15 proposed budget in the amount of $55,280,111. This is $87,199 or .16 percent less than the 2013-14 budget.

Last year, as you may recall, the school budget was defeated three times. As a result, the provision in the Chariho Act regarding school funding had to be enforced, which raised the current budget by $54,100 over the requested amount of $55,367,310. In addition, each of the three referendum votes cost residents $1,500 or a total of $13,500 for all three votes. If the towns fail to approve this year’s proposed budget, it will automatically revert back to “level funding” and increase the budget by $556,668. Everyone should want to avoid this unnecessary fiscal consequence.

Since this past autumn, your school committee representatives and school district administrators have spent considerable time and effort to develop next year’s budget with the objective of providing the best education possible within a responsible budget that each town can afford. We feel this goal has been accomplished. Throughout the budget process, we listened carefully to residents’ insistence that we reduce costs and examine ways to achieve savings. Accordingly, we had to make difficult decisions to reduce staff and cut back on certain programs without compromising the quality of education for our students.

Over the past seven years, the Chariho School District has risen in prominence. Student achievement data place us in the top tier of high performing schools throughout the state. Students in both the district’s general and vocational education programs have received state and national recognition for their achievements. Graduates are being accepted at nationally ranked colleges and universities. Career-oriented students are finding meaningful employment in the workplace of their choice. Residents of all three towns can take pride in their schools. To maintain this high level of attainment is expensive, but most worthwhile.

Research shows that education can reduce crime rates. Consider the following information that was released by the Vera Institute of Justice, which researched the cost of imprisoning convicted criminals. Their January 2012 report detailed what incarceration costs Rhode Island taxpayers annually. Here are their key findings:

  • Rhode Island Department of Corrections Budget: $159.8 million.
  • Total state cost of prisons: $172.1 million.
  • Average annual cost per inmate: $49,133.

Apart from the enormous economic cost to taxpayers, many of these incarcerated individuals will face a life of fiscal uncertainty, loss of family, self-esteem, and despair. On the other hand, the cost to educate each child who attends Chariho is approximately $16,209 and affords him/her the chance to achieve a satisfying personal life and career and to make a positive contribution to society. I hope voters will think long and hard about these comparisons when casting their votes on April 8.

It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” Safeguarding our children’s future will go a long way in securing ours. And please remember, generations of citizens before us sacrificed and paid for our education. We have a moral education to do no less for this generation of present day students.

I respectfully urge you to approve the school district’s budget on April 8 and to encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same. On behalf of our students, I want to thank you for your support.

Ron220modRonald J. Areglado*
*The writer is a member of the Chariho School Committee representing Charlestown.