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Richmond Leaders Urge General Assembly to Provide Equitable Education Funding

Today, Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney and RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras, alongside Senator Rosalyn Dance, Delegate Delores McQuinn, Delegate Jeff Bourne, Delegate Betsy Carr and Richmond City Council and RPS Board representatives, called upon the Virginia General Assembly to provide a more equitable education funding package in its final budget bill.

“The General Assembly has not done everything that they could do for each and every child that attends our public schools,” said Mayor Stoney. “We need more funding for our schools and we need the state to fund the true cost of public education. We are optimistic that members of the conference committee will provide additional funding, especially for urban and rural districts.”
Based on the proposed budgets, city leaders are asking state lawmakers to maximize the use of the At-Risk Add-On Program, include the full counselor ratio adjustment as proposed by the Governor and support the Senate plan to raise teacher salaries.

“The At-Risk Add-On is absolutely critical, not just for children in Richmond, but for kids all across the Commonwealth,” said RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras. “Money from the At-Risk Add-On helps us address the trauma that so many of our young people face in their lives every single day. We urge the Assembly to take up the Senate’s version of the budget, which increases the At-risk Add-On and to support all of our young people across the state.”

Fulfilling their promise, Mayor Stoney and Superintendent Kamras spent the morning visiting offices of legislators, including that of House Speaker M. Kirkland Cox, to make the case for more equitable funding for some of the commonwealth’s most vulnerable communities. In recognition of Valentine’s Day, they presented lawmakers with a red rose accompanied by the following poem:

Roses are red;
Violets are blue.
Our schools need more funding;
It can’t happen without you!

As it stands, the current budget recommendation falls far short of what Virginia’s students and teachers need and deserve, cutting millions of dollars from the investments proposed in December. These budgets ignore the stark reality that state funding for K-12 education is still down 9% throughout the state and 19% in Richmond, since the 2009 recession.
“I stand here before you on behalf of every child throughout the state of Virginia,” said Cheryl Burke, 7th District School Board Representative. “Those of us that are in positions to make decisions for our children need to be mindful of those who have and those who have not. It’s time for the state of Virginia to step up and pay closer attention to the education needs and concerns of all children. If we don’t do it now, what will the future bring?”

Richmond-area delegates voiced their support in favor of more equitable education funding:

“There is a need to have real conversations and to put action behind our words when we discuss equity in the state of Virginia,” said Delegate Jeff Bourne. “The budget that the House passed several weeks ago doesn’t do that. One of the most important things that we can do is begin to provide equitable funding for all school districts. As it stands, 18 school divisions with the highest population of black students took a cut of $21 million, while the school divisions with the highest number of white students took an average cut of $12 million.”

“Quality education is essential to ensuring a successful future for young people in Virginia,” said Delegate Delores McQuinn. “We must always feel compelled to fight for equitable resources in order to level the playing field and provide the tools to create an environment conducive to learning.”

Senator Rosalyn Dance, who was asked by the Richmond delegation to carry the budget amendment for the At-Risk Add-On program, offered an optimistic note about her work on the Senate Finance Committee.

“I’m hearing positive things from both the House and the Senate,” said Senator Rosalyn Dance. “I’m confident that this year’s budget will set the example to show that all Virginians matter, regardless of the color of your skin or your zip code. The budget will be the first opportunity this year to demonstrate this.”