Editor’s note: This commentary was submitted by the Community High School of Vermont State Board. Its members are George Cross, chair, Winooski; Carol Bokan, vice chair, Shelburne; David Luce, secretary, Waterbury; Daniel Alcorn, Rutland; Sarah Flynn, Burlington; Richard Fraser, South Ryegate; Jason Gibbs, Duxbury; and Brian Vachon, Montpelier.
The Community High School of Vermont (CHSVT) is the fully licensed and accredited high school and vocational training and certification program for inmates in Vermont’s corrections system. For many students, it is the only opportunity they will have to acquire the academic, social and technical skills they need to get a job — and to be able to contribute to our state in a positive way — when they re-enter the community.
The administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin was no doubt searching for budget cuts that impact the fewest Vermonters. That makes educational programs for inmates are inviting targets. After all, who wants to defend convicts over legitimate budgetary demands of other, more influential and less controversial constituencies?
Here is why: The economic and social value of CHSVT and its programs is significant. The money you invest in it as a taxpayer produces a meaningful and measurable return.
The school has about 650 students – 504 enrolled students, plus an additional 150 students participating in workshops, seminars and internships. Last year, students earned 332 trade certificates and more than three dozen students completed high school. CHSVT also provides remedial services for inmates who graduated from the public high school system, but who still have startling academic needs in core areas like reading, writing and mathematics.