To the Editor:
When Chatham voters decide on public school funding April 16, they should consider this: Chatham schools provide the best value for money in New Jersey.
Chatham high school graduates attend the some of the best colleges and universities in the nation: 35% of CHS 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, and AP scores and participation rates 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. They are balanced: about half participate in athletics and half in the arts. A disproportionate number of students score advanced proficient in state-mandated tests. They study languages from the top economies in the world including 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. Chatham schools attract the best teachers and administrators. Parents of Chatham students volunteer at significant rates for school activities. They are active in supporting PTO’s, athletic boosters, music and theatre boosters, the Chatham Education Foundation, and the Chatham Athletic Foundation. They are coaches, chaperones, and helpers. School Board slots are filled by capable volunteers, and meetings are civil and efficiently and effectively run. Senior Citizens are supportive and attend school events such as the spring high school musical. Chatham is one of a few “J” districts in NJ, and most of its income taxes go to support other communities. Over 90% of Chatham school funds come from local real estate taxes. Middle School sports are privately funded. 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 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 well deserved 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 increase in health care costs for district personnel constitutes the largest part of the budget increase. Chatham is not immune to national trends such as increased rates of divorce, alcohol and substance abuse, and mental health issues. Chatham schools need the resources to cope in the form of increased counselors and security. 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 questions 1 (base budget), 2 (counselors), and 3 (security).
Alan C. Routh
(7 years in Chatham Township, 2 years in Chatham Borough; school board member 2008-2011, finance committee chair; music and theatre and athletic boosters supporter; member of board of trustees of Chatham Education Foundation; member of Municipal Alliance Committee of the Chathams; member of Education Counts; volunteer photographer for school theatre, fundraising, and athletic events; former parent manager of Chatham United girl’s U14 soccer team; proud parent of a CHS sophomore and three CHS/CMS/LAF/WAS graduates; senior citizen)