Letter: Mathews schools excel in spite of low funding
I will, with the next few lines, attempt to defuse some of the recent bombs thrown by critics at the Mathews County Public School (MCPS) system and its employees. No doubt we are living in turbulent economic times. Yet, the southeastern region of Virginia has been spared much of the pain due to the many federal tax dollars that are spent here. Looking at U.S. Department of Labor statistics and Census Bureau data for our region, overall wages are up and unemployment is trending down. In Mathews County, property values and median household income are up.
Consequently, what I want to discuss here … what I want to counter here is the charge by some in our community that the return on taxpayer dollars to the MCPS system has declined in recent years. In fact, taxpayers of Mathews County have invested less in public education in recent years yet receive a greater return on that investment.
A look at Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck school district budgets and statistics maintained by the Virginia State Board of Education (VBOE) show students of MCPS second only to West Point Public Schools in educational achievement. I rely on VBOE four-year Cohort Dropout Rates and Program Completion Information that shows diploma types earned by students. In 2010, Mathews had a cohort dropout rate of 1.9 percent (again, second only to West Point at 1.4 percent) compared to 9.9 percent for Middlesex schools. The number of students graduating from Mathews in 2010 with an advanced diploma was 54 percent, second only to West Point at 55 percent. 34 percent of Middlesex graduates earned an advanced diploma in that year. This data suggests that Mathews is doing an excellent job of providing quality education for its children in addition to keeping them in school.
The difference in dropout rates might explain why Middlesex had slightly better SOL test scores than Mathews in 2010-2011—had Middlesex included test scores for its dropouts, you can, with a high degree of certainty, conclude that Middlesex pass rates would be lower. However, comparing one school district to another is an apples and oranges exercise.
Finally, an assumption was made by Mrs. Slaughter that Mathews spends more on education than similar school districts located on the NNMP. In fact, a survey of similar school systems shows that Mathews spends less per student than any other school district. West Point is one of the highest and West Point Schools are generally considered the best in the area by parents and educators—I guess spending more will buy a better public education.
Middlesex spends $11.1k per student and Mathews spends the least among similar school districts in the area at $9.9k per student. Yet, as I stated earlier, the Mathews Public School District is a close second to West Point Schools in quality public education to the children it serves. Just imagine, with proper funding Mathews might be the best school system in the area.