The Path Forward

Budget Talk

Late on a Friday night, May 13th, the budget was finalized by City Council leaving the schools to find $10.7M in cuts and to adhere to categorical funding limits. Although hundreds didn't show up, more than 45 speakers were there and almost all spoke in favor of greater support for schools. That's pretty awesome for a warm and clear spring Friday evening. You can listen to the Audio Only! from the meeting for heart wrenching testimonials, cleaver poems, and passionate speakers. 

On May 23rd, the School Board finalized their budget, making $10.7M in cuts from their previous proposal. The RT-D's Louis Llovio gives us a brief overview, but be on the look out look out for upcoming article from RVANews' Teresa Cole on the full impact of the cuts. You can watch the meeting in Audio and Video Only!

The Mayor's Long-Term School Investment Funding Team presented their final draft report. They reviewed a slew of documents and I'm not sure what it all means yet, but the RT-D reports that its a bleak outlook

Spring Takeaways

1. We missed an opportunity to have a real discussion about the rationale behind schools closings and facility investment decisions.

Communication of the facilities plan was our initial goal at Richmond Forward. We've come a long way in developing a one-page flyer to explain a 300+ page facilities plan, built a 400+ person communication list, led parent and student engagement activities, detailed the historical disinvestment in RPS facilities, and crafted a 2016 budget position statement. But in talking with others, the gap is great and more is needed. 

Teresa Cole's education FAQs #005 and #006 do an extreme amount of legwork on explaining the rationale behind school closures and analyzing long-standing education myths and talking points. These are in-depth articles and take a few reads to sink in. Like eating vegetables, you need to do this and you'll be a better person for it. 

The community meeting at Mt. Olive Church is another star example of a discussion that shouldn't be happening as a reaction, but as a proactive approach to community engagement. 

Maybe filling this communication gap is the next step for Richmond Forward. I know their is interest in teams to further efforts on student expression, parent & teacher engagement, policy & funding analysis, community schools, and the election. In maximizing the impact of these efforts, a consistent theme of broken communication and misunderstanding is present. 

This is where you can help.

60-second educational videos uploaded to YouTube, savvy social media posts, and informative one-pagers with info-graphics could save our schools. If your a wizard at any of these, or know a wizard with some free time, please contact me today. 

2. Get ready for the election. 

You'll hear more about this soon, but Richmond Forward is working groups on candidate questionnaires and forums for this fall. The mayoral race (#RVAMayor) will lead the press, but attention is needed on school board and city council races. Mark Robinson's "Field Notes" series is the best I've read on covering ALL the races. 

Especially in the early summer, it could be super impactful to get an educational platform of benchmarks that define quality measures to improve schools. As a city we need to be ready to ask tough questions and not just receive answers that they're "for children." I'm pretty sure no one will run an anti-children campaign. Here's a starter list of points: 

  • Benchmark 30% of local revenues for education
  • Provide your plan to dedicate staff or resources to coordinate City and School administration to support school improvement 
  • Hold quarterly joint meetings with School Board and City Council to discuss and coordinate school improvement and investment 
  • Present your plan for specifics on long-term funding for school facilities with a framework for engaging state and private funding  

I'll be sending out a meeting date soon for our Policy and Funding Team to meet and hammer out the details. Contact me today if you want in on this.