by Henry Swain
One of the greatest services of the CRC has been its effort to raise the level of education of those in the community who for whatever reason did not finish high school. The (GED) General Educational Development diploma can be earned through a test given at the CRC. In the past seven years 295 residents have passed the GED tests.
A high school diploma or GED represents the minimum education requirement for most employers when hiring. Those who do not have this basic educational requirement automatically place themselves in the lowest income group in which they most likely will stay. This group is also statistically more likely to be negatively involved with the law and welfare services. Dropouts make up nearly half the heads of households on welfare.
When the county considered building its present Law Enforcement building, one of the basic questions was how large should it be? Expected population increase (available from the Indiana Business Research Center) was one factor. A jail planner representative to the County Commissioners stated that the dropout rate of those not finishing high school was statistically one of the best indicators in determining the number of jail cells needed in a 30 year life span jail projection. Dropouts make up nearly half the prison population.
In the Brown County High School senior class of 2009, 12 out of 181 students dropped out. This is much better than the state average of one in four. In Indiana 30% who do finish high school go no further.
It would be interesting to track the 12 who dropped out of Brown County High School during the last school year. Some will probably come to the CRC to get their GED. It would be unusual if some did not at some point end up in jail, in prison, or on welfare. The Literacy Coalition presently tutors jail inmates to prepare them for getting their GED at the CRC.
Thirty years ago dropouts could often find factory work and get by. Factory jobs are disappearing and the educational requirements for remaining jobs are higher. Income for dropouts has declined 34% in the last thirty years reflecting this change.
It should be evident that dropouts represent a continuing cost to our community. One person spending a life in prison costs $1,000,000. One life on welfare and other benefits, costs $500,000. The 295 Brown County citizens who have received their GED through the CRC, represent a proactive community investment and immediate taxpayer savings that will continue into the future.
The CRC Lilly Grant funding ends next year. An effort is being made to increase the endowment so the CRC can continue. This will be difficult in our small community with so many other worthy organizations in competing for the donor dollar.
One option the CRC Board is considering is a 1% tax assessment for adult education. The tax would expire after seven years. This would give the community time to fulfill the goal of building an endowment fund that could support the CRC without further taxation.
The CRC board hopes by the spring election cycle to place this tax proposal as a separate ballot initiative subject to referendum by the voters. Voters generally respond negatively to any new tax increases. In view of the above information, those choosing to vote against this proposition would be casting a vote for ignorance, while those in favor would be investing significantly in the future of our community and its youth.
Our choice is between ignorance and enlightenment. Both have costs, but only enlightenment pays positive dividends.