Martin Page was elected to the Iredell-Statesville Board of Education in 2014.
Viewpoint: Education is critical to reducing crime and poverty
Editor’s Note: Iredell-Statesville Board of Education Chairman Martin Page delivered the following remarks during Monday’s board meeting.
BY MARTIN PAGE
Everyone in Iredell County is well aware of the issues that are now plaguing the City of Statesville. Last month I attended the standing room only City Council meeting in which citizen after citizen spoke of the crime issues in the city. I was in tears listening to a father of one of our children speak of the night she was seriously injured in a shooting in South Statesville.
Gangs, illegal drugs and crime are now deteriorating the very fabric of some Statesville communities. High crime is just the result of other underlying issues. Poverty, drugs and the breakdown of the family unit are some of the main catalysts driving crime.
These issues result in an untrained workforce, prevent economic growth, drive down home values, and lead to upper- and middle-class flight, which then leads to further poverty. Our city appears to be in a vicious cycle which must be broken.
The most important part of a solution to stopping this cycle, in my opinion, is EDUCATION. Most of Iredell-Statesville system’s low-performing schools are in Statesville. First and foremost, people need to understand that “low-performing schools” are made up of students who just need extra support and care to reach their hidden potentials.
Since perspective homeowners or business owners first look at the quality of schools and potential workforce, overcoming the challenges of poverty and its correlation to low performance must be paramount to helping Statesville bring jobs and prosperity to ALL of its residents.
In addition to the challenges of helping all children of all backgrounds succeed, I quickly realized, once on the school board, that schools are now being held responsible for societal issues like never before.
Our schools now are required to provide mental health, nursing, physical therapy, speech, counseling, and other medical and social services to our students. The federal and state government require these services but provide only limited resources to do the job.
Iredell-Statesville Schools is known throughout the state, and even in the nation, as a progressive school system, well known for its quality of education and the many choice options for children of all ages. The John Locke Foundation lists Iredell-Statesville Schools as one of the two top school systems in North Carolina for giving the taxpayers the best education for its money. In a recent Charlotte Observer article, the State Superintendent of Education recognized Iredell-Statesville Schools for its performance.
The sad part of this is Iredell-Statesville Schools puts more money and resources into our poor-performing schools than into our more successful schools in other parts of the county. Based on average daily membership, the average number of students per teacher and average teacher salaries, Iredell-Statesville Schools spends well over a million dollars more a year in schools located in Statesville than the system’s average.
In my opinion, if the community is serious about breaking this cycle of poverty, poor economic growth, and gang/drug-related crime, EDUCATION must be center point of any long-term solution. Tonight, I am asking for support from our Board of Education and our administration to increase our already herculean efforts to bring the community together for the benefit of all our children, especially those who live in poverty.
With the support of this board, I would like for us to reach out to citizen groups, churches, government agencies, youth groups, businesses, law enforcement and the courts to join with Iredell-Statesville Schools to find and implement possible solutions to these issues. It is going to take more resources, more time, and tough love to solve these problems.
Over the next few months, I hope the community will begin accelerated efforts to address what we can do to help in this community fight to bring back the pride and unity that the City of Statesville deserves.