2009-03-26 / Letters to the Editor

Could town cut taxes and provide good education?

As reported in the March 19 Jamestown Press, the Jamestown School Committee stands behind a 2.42 percent budget increase. From 2008 Information Works (the latest available) on the RI Department of Education website, Jamestown spends more than any other community, except New Shoreham, for general education expenditures for instruc- tion and instructional support, per pupil cost at $12,083. For comparison's sake, the state average is $9,736. North Kingstown spends $9,349, Barrington, $8,710, and East Greenwich, $9,330; all below the state average.

These are all high performing districts — in fact one might argue better performing than Jamestown. Using state assessment data for percentage of children proficient or above for the 2007- 2008 school year, for grades 3-8 in basic academic areas, North Kingstown exceeds Jamestown in 8 of 14 measurements, Barrington in every measurement, and East Greenwich in 9 of 14.

Furthermore, their teacher to student ratio is significantly higher than Jamestown, although this data includes high school for the others. Jamestown has 7.9 students for every teacher; North Kingstown, 10.5; Barrington, 11.4; and East Greenwich, 10.2. Do these districts care about their children? Are they providing a high quality education for less money than Jamestown?

Our school committee supports the East Providence School Committee in unilaterally breaking a contract to save that town money, but does not support a zero tax increase budget in their hometown. It is quite easy to encourage others to pare their budget (even when questionable ethics/legalities are involved) while not being fiscally responsible at home.

From this data, is it necessary to increase taxes in order to provide quality education for our children? Or is it even possible to cut taxes and continue to provide a quality education? Cliff Hamm Jamestown

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