Sunday, August 4, 2013

If you do not graduate from high school, you are 63 times more likely to end up in the criminal justice system.

As the youth of Berks County begin to prepare for another school year, we must remember that Reading is one of the poorest cities in the country. Sadly, only half of Reading’s Public School students graduate from high school. However, instead of giving more help to the children in Reading, we slashed funds, thus greatly increasing class size and decreasing support while ousting dozens of teachers and aides. The school board is about to adopt next school year’s budget with a projected reduction of $15,000,000 (less than the current year).
At the same time the Commonwealth’s current budget ends with many cuts to the poor that are “offset” by tax cuts. We must remember that this budget “cut business taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars…and slashed hundreds of millions of dollars from services for the poor, homeless, troubled and disabled.” (Front page, June 30th, 2012, The Reading Eagle)
What’s wrong with this picture? How can cutting funds for education and related services for our inner-city youth, while at the same time cutting taxes from any source, somehow be beneficial to society? Mathematically, how can cutting the state’s taxes balance significant funding sources in recent years?
We collect fewer taxes, go deeper in debt, or at least continue to carry the loss of revenue, while we cut services to the neediest in society. As I asked in an editorial to The Reading Eagle in September, 2012, “Will these cuts improve the most troubling statistic that only half of the kids in the Reading schools graduate?”
By previously cutting $860,000,000 from public education in Pennsylvania, are we not grooming more young people for our criminal justice system? Shouldn’t we pay for the fundamental educational services now, rather than paying many times more in incarceration expenses later?

Statistic Source Referenced: P.B.S., posted in Philadelphia’s subway passenger cars, as seen by the author on May 31, 2013.