Dr. Thad Williamson, senior policy advisor for the Mayor, joined School Board Member Liz Doerr and City Councilman Andreas Addison at their 1st District Community Meeting to speak on one of the Mayor’s top five incentives: the RVA Education Compact. Liz Doerr currently serves as a member of the Compact Plan working group.
The Education Compact is a collaborative effort between the City Council, the School Board, the Mayor, and the Chief Administrative Officer to improve the academic outcomes of students and the well-being of families. The goal is to expand the opportunities for success available to Richmond’s students.
A Draft of the Compact is currently in progress. It can be viewed by following this link: http://www.richmondgov.com/Mayor/documents/EducationCompactProposal.pdf
The inspiration for this Compact comes from the idea of “The Whole Child,” the complicated budget process that Richmond is faced with, and the success of the Denver Education Compact, which was launched in 2011 with set, shared goals.
Below is a brief overview of some key components of the compact, in addition to some citizen comments and questions about the plan.
Dr. Williamson said: “We can’t wait for the poverty to go down to start helping children.”
Set and achieve transformational goals for RVA’s children, families, schools, and communities
Develop and execute a shared funding strategy
Establish a regular schedule of communication between elected officials
Institutionalize communication between administrative bodies
Establish operating principles for the Compact
Set and Achieve Transformational Goals
Academic Achievement Sub-Goals
Improve the graduation rate
3rd Grade performance and growth
5th Grade performance and growth
8th Grade performance and growth
Compliance with state Standards of Quality
Strong school cultures to support learning
Improve quality and effectiveness of instruction
Whole Child Sub-Goals
Expand access to quality care for children aged 0 to 3
Develop a collaborative approach to improve early childhood learning
Provide universal access to resources
Develop a Shared Funding Strategy
Jennifer Aghomo asked: “Why can’t there be a sales tax increase, or an item-line budget, for the schools?” (In other words, a dedicated funding source for the schools.)
Mrs. Doerr (SB) replied that all options (in regards to the budget) should be on the table, and thus a sales tax increase or line-item budget is something that could eventually be considered.
Mr. Addison (CC) added that the challenge of using sales taxes comes from the lack of consistency due to fluctuations in spending. “The school need consistent funding,” he said.
A second speaker asked: “What about the proceeds from the Virginia State Lottery?” She stated that there was a need to look into that, as she was under the impression that those proceeds went to the schools.
Roderick Bullock stated that “We need to stop blaming the issue of Richmond Public Schools’ shortcomings on poverty,” citing that certain individuals were not prevented from becoming successful due to poverty. He said that we need to move away from the “same old bureaucracy” and come together and demand the millions of dollars that the state owes [to Richmond]. “Until we address those issues,” he said, “there will still be problems. We need to address the elephant in the room.”
A fourth speaker stated that she did not hear a focus on mental health addressed within the compact. She stated that mental health is key, as mental health makes a big difference in [determining] whether or not a child will succeed.
Dr. Williamson showed in the presentation where mental health was mentioned as one of the sub-goals of the Education Compact.
Don Cowles asked about two things that he hopes are embedded in the Education Compact. (1) “What is our aspiration and how does that get articulated?” and (2) “Who will actually work on[the Compact]?”
To the second question, Dr. Williamson replied that there will be more than one City Staff Member working on [the Compact].
The sixth and final speaker wanted to “state the obvious” and express that she finds the Education Compact “encouraging and helpful” in light of the debacle of the former Mayor fighting with the School Board and City Council.
“I think it is fabulous,” she said. “I look forward to hearing more details in April.”