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Vote 'Yes' For the School Budget Wednesday, Former BOE Member Says

Residents will decide Wednesday on budget, funding technology program and will cast ballots in an uncontested BOE race.

To the Editor:

On Wednesday, April 23 Chatham voters decide public school funding for the 2014-15 school year.  Please consider this: Chatham schools provide the best value for money in New Jersey.  

35% of Chatham graduates attend institutions in the top Barron’s category, which is typically attended by the top 20% of students.   Chatham students have some of the best SAT, ACT, AP, HSPA, and NJASK scores in the state.  They win more county and state championship athletic events than most.  They are talented musicians, actors, and singers, performing in the most prestigious venues. About half participate in athletics and half in the arts.  They study languages from the largest economies in the world: China, Germany, France and Spanish-speaking countries.  

Chatham schools do all of this for one of the lowest dollar per student costs in New Jersey. Over the past several years, real inflation-adjusted Chatham per-student costs have decreased, an exception to the rule in NJ.

Many factors contribute to this success.  Parents of Chatham students volunteer at significant rates for school and community activities.  They are active in PTOs, Athletic Boosters, Music and Theatre Boosters, Chatham Education Foundation, Education Counts, and Chatham Athletic Foundation. School Board slots are filled by capable citizens, and meetings are civil and effectively run. Chatham schools attract the best teachers and administrators. Senior citizens are supportive and many attend events such as the high school musical “Anything Goes.” 

Over 90% of Chatham school funds come from local real estate taxes because the state of NJ allocates very little “state aid” to our district.  Chatham schools do not have a swimming pool or an ice rink, but still win state championships in swimming and ice hockey.  The district has been growing for many years, and many school facilities are operating above official NJ guideline functional capacity.   A Chatham home is worth significantly more than a comparable home in most other towns on New Jersey Transit’s Midtown Direct train service lines, in large part due to the reputation of the schools.

Even with all of this success, there are challenges to be addressed. The high school is becoming increasingly more crowded and needs more classrooms and teachers. The largest budget increase ($711k or 6%) is for special education, where NJ-approved rates for those students who cannot be accommodated within the district will increase 10%.  The second largest budget increase ($629k or 6%) is in health care costs for district personnel in spite of significant efforts by the district to control costs. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (“STEM”) programs need strengthening to be competitive.  The proposed budget includes funds to address all of these issues in a cost-efficient manner, and it deserves the continued support of the community.  

Please vote “yes” for question 1 (general fund), and question 2 (enhance technology).

Alan C. Routh, 82 Fairview Avenue, Chatham, NJ 07928

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Duncan Munchkin April 22, 2014 at 12:03 PM
I need to ask…what do ice rinks and swimming pools have to do with education anyway? You are fronting the organization called "Education Counts," but what has your little club ever done to evaluate the education in this town or the manner in which the money is spent? Year after year, you ramrod the budget through and force-feed us an annual tax increase. In return, my kids get endless blurry photocopies for "materials," and teachers with barely enough interest to push "play" for the video that teaches math. And yes, it's anecdotal, but all of the people that raved about Chatham when I moved here have put their kids in private school…that includes my realtor. Thanks to Alan and his signs, we have to pay higher taxes every year. The education, however, never seems to improve.
Alan Routh April 22, 2014 at 08:22 PM
Dear Duncan Munchkin: Thank you for your perspective on Chatham schools. Please be advised that Education Counts is not a "club," but rather a group of volunteers who participate in most Board of Education and PTO meetings about the budget, are active in the Garden State Coalition of Schools, have been to Trenton on several occasions to meet with elected officials about school issues, and who provide a wealth of school budget information on the Education Counts website free of charge. I previously served three years on the Board of Education, including a year as Finance Committee chair, and I spent significant time "evaluating the education" in Chatham and "the manner in which money is spent." I frequently comment on these topics at Board of Education meetings. I hope you are participating in these meetings as well. Education Counts expends significant effort to educate Chatham citizens, who vote of their own free will, with no "ramrodding" involved. Education Counts volunteers provide these services on our own personal time, for no monetary compensation, at no charge to taxpayers. Regarding Chatham teachers, school results speak for themselves. If one has difficulties with one's children's teachers, one should meet with them and/or their school principals. One is also always welcome to attend a Board of Education meeting to present one's views and concerns. While there is a small segment of the population which elects private schooling for their children, the vast majority of Chatham children attend public schools. My four children attend/attended Chatham schools, and they are getting a fabulous education for a bargain price. Alan Routh
Tony Britt April 24, 2014 at 12:16 PM
Thanks Alan for your intelligent reply to a rant from someone who hides behind a screen name.

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