Updated: 06/05/2014 7:41 PM
Created: 06/05/2014 6:31 AM WHEC.com
By: Berkeley Brean
Is crime linked to poor education? Does it cost you money whether you live in the city or not? If you don’t think struggling schools in the city and crime by young people affect your taxes and your money, this story will change your mind.
Carlos Serrano says he should be in ninth grade at Charlotte High School. He’s serving three months for violating his probation. DeAndre Dent, who should be a freshman at Monroe High School, is serving ten months for robbery.
DeAndre Dent said, “You miss your family a lot. It's not a place to be.”
Carlos Serrano said, “Most 17-year-olds don't want to be here.”
At 17-years-old, both Carlos and DeAndre should be well beyond ninth grade. They admit they were not going to school when they got in trouble. They said they like the street better.
So who do they blame for that?
Dent said, “Myself. It's my fault. I wasn't paying attention in school.”
Serrano said, “I blame some of my teachers because they didn't really teach me anything. They just put a book in front of me and say do the work.”
Carlos admits that's what would happen when he came back to school after missing three weeks.
Is there a link between crime, being in jail and a lack of education? According to the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, a majority of inmates in the county jail do not have a high school diploma.
Ed Ignarri, County Jail Director of Rehab, said, “Professionally, from my perspective there obviously is a nexus.”
Ed Ignarri is the Director of Rehabilitation for the sheriff's office. He says most of the teenagers in the Monroe County Jail read and do math at a level four or five below where they should be. In state prison, 25 percent of inmates read below an eighth grade level.
Ignarri said, “And that has a tremendous impact on someone's ability to make good decisions. It has an impact on their ability to get a job.”
While Carlos and DeAndre were cutting class before they got arrested, they have to go to school in jail. They get classes in English, math, science and writing. State law says free education has to be provided to anyone under 21.
The average cost to house an inmate in the county jail is $50,000 a year. The average cost per student in the city school district is $20,000. That means through your state and county taxes, you are footing a potential $70,000 bill.
Ignarri said, “If you look at someone who is here for a whole year, they're costing the taxpayer a great deal of money.”
The total budget for the county jail is $75 million.
Carlos gets out of jail in June. He is going home to his two-year-old son. DeAndre gets out in July. He is convinced that dropping out lead him into the jail.
Dent said, “Because if I was in school, I would be playing JV basketball or varsity basketball, doing something with my life instead of hanging out with the wrong crowd.
So how did it come to this?
Dr. Bolgen Vargas, RCSD Superintendent, said, "I think we all have. When we fail to educate our children, it has a tremendous impact on the individual, their family and society.”
A major campaign to help children starts on the last day of school. The superintendent calls it the most intensive reading campaign in the history of the district. One hundred thousand books will be going home with children this summer. If a child can read well by third grade, they are more likely to graduate from high school and it is less likely people will have to pay for education in jail.
What you can do?
Volunteer to help a child read: 262-8133
Click here for the RCSD volunteer application form
Truancy Hotline: 262-8105