Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Mayor Levar M. Stoney Statement on Governor Northam's Proposed New Investments in K-12 Education

Just three days after students, families, education advocates and elected leaders from across the commonwealth marched to the Virginia Capitol to demand more funding for K-12 public education, Governor Ralph Northam announced over $278 million in new education investments, including raising teacher pay, and increased funding for Virginia’s At-Risk Add-On and Supplemental Lottery Per Pupil Allocation.

“I’m glad to see Governor Northam is listening to the concerns of students, families and localities across Virginia demanding more state funding for education,” said Mayor Levar Stoney. “This is a significant step toward getting our students and teachers the support they need and deserve, but we still have more work to do. We need to make our voices heard in January to protect these investments and continue fighting for our students. More money means better schools and stronger students.”

Monday, December 3, 2018

Mayor Levar M. Stoney Statement Regarding Ordinance 2018-297

“Given the magnitude of the proposed Navy Hill project, I fully support an enhanced public process seeking to engage, inform and solicit input and advice from all citizens and members of the community. My administration is prepared to assist Council in hosting as many public meetings as they deem necessary to solicit public input and answer questions about the project. One in each council district would seem completely appropriate to me.

“I also encourage Council to seek independent experts in relevant fields to review the proposal, and advise council at their relevant committee and full Council meetings, so that the entire community can benefit from their perspectives. The Honorable Members of City Council are the nine persons chosen by the citizens to serve as members of the city’s governing body; to review legislation and to make decisions regarding Richmond’s future.”

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Local Governments Across Virginia Join Effort to Advocate for more Education Funding

Since 2009, state funding for K-12 education is down 9%, while overall student population has grown by 5%.

Today, local elected officials from across the Commonwealth are joining the call for more state funding for K-12 public education.  Leaders from a number of localities have signed on to support the March For More, which was announced on Wednesday by Mayor Levar Stoney, Richmond Public Schools leadership and education leaders from the across the region. March For More will take place on December 8th starting at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Richmond and end at the State Capitol steps.
The March is also supported by a growing number of organizations committed to increasing state funding for education, including the Virginia Education Association, Virginia Municipal League, Virginia First Cities, and the NAACP, to name a few.
Leaders from across the Commonwealth, representing a diversity of Virginians, support the March For More and are encouraging parents, students, teachers, administrators and others in the education field to participate in the march in Richmond:

Virginia Municipal League
“We represent 38 cities, 160 towns, and eight counties in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Michelle Gowdy, Executive Director of the Virginia Municipal League. “In July of this year, the City of Richmond came to our legislative committee meeting asking our members to support advocating the state to fund the true cost of education. this initiative, and our members did overwhelmingly. We then took this issue to our entire membership in October and again they overwhelmingly supported this initiative, and we look forward to supporting it going forward.”

Virginia First Cities
“We are a coalition of 14 cities from across the Commonwealth and want to express our strongest possible support for increased funding for Virginia public education,” said Kelly Harris-Braxton, Executive Director of Virginia First Cities. “We represent cities all across the state, including: Charlottesville, Danville, Hampton, Hopewell, Lynchburg, Martinsville, Newport News, Norfolk, Petersburg, Portsmouth, Richmond, Staunton, Williamsburg, and Winchester.”
“Year after year, our cities are digging deeper and deeper and making incredibly hard decisions about where to cut in order to adequately educate our children because Virginia continues to disproportionately rely on local governments to fund public schools…”

Mayor Justin Wilson, City of Alexandria:
“Localities like Alexandria are committed to the investment necessary to create 21st century learning environments for our children. However, we believe that the Commonwealth needs to recognize and fund the true cost of public education in our communities. Simply put, Virginia needs more state funding for K-12 education in our communities. Our children need it. Our families deserve it. Our leaders must demand it.”

Chairwoman Katie Cristol, Arlington County:
“As a locality that receives the smallest percentage of funds from the state for K-12 education, we’ve watched funding dwindle since the start of the recession in 2009. The Virginia Department of Education’s data shows this in stark terms: Arlington’s local expenditures for operations for the Standards of Quality in 2017 exceeded our required local effort by 181.6 percent. Shifting such a disproportionate burden of educating young Virginians on to the Commonwealth’s localities is as inequitable as it is unsustainable.”

Mayor Nikuyah Walker and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Rosa Atkins City of Charlottesville:
“We’ve asked the General Assembly to recognize and fund the true cost of public education. From adequate SOQ funding, to increasing the At Risk Add On, to funding for extended school day/extended school year programs, the Commonwealth’s attention to funding a quality public education is being called on and it’s urgent, for our children cannot afford to be kept waiting.”

Mayor Treney Tweedy, City of Lynchburg:
"Jobs are the key to economic recovery and adequate education is essential for the foundational preparation of the current and future workforce. The State should fully fund the Standards of Quality (SOQ), including support staff costs and categorical incentive funds for At-Risk students and restore funding from cuts to education over the last biennium. The state must meet its education funding obligations and should refrain from changes in methodology and division of financial responsibility that result in a further shift of funding responsibility from the state to localities. These shifts do not change what it actually costs to provide education but simply transfers additional costs to local governments, and ultimately to the local real estate tax base."

Mayor Gene Teague and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Zebedee Talley Jr, City of Martinsville:
“We are asking for statewide parity in state funding for school construction, maintenance and operations. Further, we have asked the Commonwealth to fully fund the expenditures imposed upon local school systems by implementing the Standards of Quality because Martinsville invested 148.2% above the required local effort for SOQ programs in 2016-2017.”

Mayor Kenneth Alexander, City of Norfolk:
“State support of K-12 education has steadily declined over the last generation when compared to the total growth of the general fund. Since FY2009, the state’s K-12 appropriation has dropped from 35.2% of total general fund appropriations to 29.9% in FY2019.  There have been zero direct state grants for capital improvements since FY2010, and even literary fund loans to school divisions have been impacted.  Localities have been forced to make up the difference, and other vital services for families and communities have suffered in the balance. In a time when Virginia is experiencing significant economic growth and state revenue forecasts are improving, it is critical that we atone for these cuts in investment imposed on our schools and restore state funding for K-12 education.”

Councilwoman Jill Carson, Town of Pennington Gap
“The formula for funding public schools, as it currently exists, does little or even perhaps fails to meet the educational needs of poor rural school districts."

Mayor John Rowe, Jr., City of Portsmouth:
"The local, state, and federal shares of school operations funding has shifted since 2008-2009 and Portsmouth has taken on a much larger share of funding. Portsmouth invested 296.3% above the required local effort for SOQ programs in 2016-2017. Obviously, we cannot raise property taxes on an already stressed citizenry. The state needs to step up funding for K-12 education."

Vice-Mayor Anita James-Price, City of Roanoke:
“Now is the time for leadership to clearly establish that education is Virginia’s top priority. Frederick Douglas said it best: “it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men”. Let’s invest today for the future of tomorrow’s commonwealth.”

Mayor Carolyn Dull, City of Staunton:
“The General Assembly simply needs to fully fund K - 12 education and fix the SOQ formula to recognize the true cost of education, as our children deserve, and our future workforce demands.”

In Virginia, localities are required to fund 45% of K-12 education, but are funding 57% of the spending – to the tune of about $4 billion more than required. In Virginia, localities are funding more than $4 billion over the State’s required local contribution.
“This is not just an urban school problem, but a statewide issue that effects our rural and suburban localities as well. Since 2009, state funding for K-12 education is down 9%, while overall student population has grown by 5%,” said Mayor Levar Stoney. “I’m proud to stand with local governments and school districts across Virginia to say this is not only unacceptable – it is unjust and immoral.”

For more information about the March For More, visit MoreBetterStronger.com.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Mayor Stoney Announces Key Priorities for Navy Hill Project Surplus

Additional $1.2 billion over 30 year dedicated to Education (50%), Housing (15%) and the Arts (1%)
Mayor Stoney announced his intention today to dedicate significant portions of the surplus revenues from the Navy Hill Redevelopment Project to his core priorities of education and housing. The Mayor’s proposal, which will be included in the ordinances submitted to city council in the coming weeks, would direct 50 percent of surplus revenues from the Tax Increment Financing district to support Richmond Public Schools, 15 percent to support housing opportunities and homeless services and 1 percent for art, history and cultural opportunities. The remaining 34 percent would remain in the general fund for investments in public safety, public works and other core city services.

“By dedicating significant portions of the surplus revenues that this project will create to our top priorities of education, housing opportunities, and arts and culture, we are following through on my commitment that this project will truly be the greatest economic empowerment project in our city’s history,” said Mayor Levar Stoney.

The city’s third party analysis estimated the Navy Hill Project would generate $1.2 billion in surplus revenues to the City General Fund over 30 years. The Mayor’s proposed distribution of surplus revenues would provide an estimated $600 million for schools to use on operations or could be bonded for infrastructure and capital needs, in addition to the $34 million projected to be generated from the 1.5% of meals tax collections that will still go to the special fund for school construction. $180 million would be available for investments in housing needs such as affordable housing opportunities, public housing transformation and homelessness services intervention. $12 million would be dedicated for public projects that add to the artistic, cultural and historic assets of the city. In addition to these commitments, an additional $400 million would be available for the city to invest in neighborhoods through roads and infrastructure improvements, police and fire services, as well as other city services.

“I believe the 21,000 jobs, nearly 700 units of affordable housing and the more than $300 million in opportunities for minority business that the Navy Hill project will create already provides tremendous economic opportunities for our residents. But I’m just as excited about its potential to generate significant revenues that we can use to build a world-class educational system, to improve housing opportunities for all our residents, and to invest in art and cultural projects that tell our full and complete history. This type of project will truly enable us to build One Richmond,” said Mayor Stoney.

The Mayor’s plan won immediate support from leaders of Richmond Public Schools, who were in attendance for the announcement outside of George Mason Elementary School in Church Hill.

“This partnership is a signal of new collaboration between RPS and the City,” said RPS School Board Chairwoman Dawn Page. “I want to thank the Mayor for listening and prioritizing our children. There is much more to do, but this agreement helps us move forward together.”

“This is an important symbol of what we can achieve when we work together as One Richmond,” said Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras. “Starting in 2023, this revenue will allow us to rebuild at least another half dozen schools. That means thousands of children will have a beautiful, modern building to walk into every morning. Of course, this doesn’t solve our facility challenges, nor does it address our immediate need for more instructional dollars. But it’s a significant step in the right direction.” 
Advocates for improving housing opportunities in the city also voiced support for the plan.

“This level of investment into affordable housing will change so many lives,” said Councilwoman Ellen Robertson, Chairwoman of the Richmond Affordable Housing Trust Fund. “Right now, too many Richmonders are living in unsatisfactory conditions and we haven’t had the resources to adequately help tackle this problem. This proposed financial pledge to housing and homelessness services is exactly what our city and our citizens need.”

“This distribution of surplus revenue which directs 15 percent to housing goes a long way in finding the funds needed to rehabilitate or replace aging buildings in our public housing communities and bolster our homeless services. Everyone in Richmond deserves a high-quality home, and Mayor Stoney’s proposal affirms that it’s a priority,” said Robert Adams, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners, Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority.

“This announcement of an estimated $180 million over the next 30 years, in conjunction with the already announced commitment of nearly 700 affordable housing units, will change the face of housing for this city,” said Greta Harris, CEO of the Better Housing Coalition. “It will address head-on the housing crisis and homelessness and help us build an inclusive community that sends a message that Richmond welcomes and serves residents of all income levels.”

“It’s no secret that Richmond’s culture is strongly rooted in history and the arts. This commitment that the Mayor has put forward will be a significant investment in our community arts and culture programming. It is, in part, recognition that a city without arts and culture is a city without a soul. And if there’s one thing we know, Richmond has soul,” said Sarah Cunningham, Chairwoman of the Richmond Public Arts Commission.

While the Navy Hill Project still requires City Council approval, the Mayor’s plan to dedicate a significant portion of the surplus revenue to education, housing and the arts was met with support by members of City Council.

"While I will fully vet the Navy Hill proposal with the community and council, I would strongly support the Mayor's proposed allocation of the largest portion of the anticipated revenues to be generated by the project to go to our public schools, followed by housing and core services,” said Council Vice-President Cynthia Newbille. “Education and housing are the city’s most critical needs and require more resources. And the arts and cultural component will go a long way in helping to bring art into our neighborhoods to help tell the history of our city and highlight the culture of our communities.”

I look forward to reviewing this proposal carefully to ensure that it delivers all that it promises. However, I think dedicating 50% for schools, 34% for core services, 15% for affordable housing is a clear demonstration of meeting the City’s commitment to these priorities,” said City Council President, Chris Hilbert. “This is a very positive development in this process and I welcome the Mayor’s decision to pursue this avenue.”

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Mayor Announces Agreement in Principle on North of Broad Development

Mayor Levar M. Stoney today announced that the City of Richmond has reached an agreement, in principle, with the nonprofit NH District Corporation for the development of the Navy Hill neighborhood north of Broad Street. Pending final negotiation and satisfactory resolution of several outstanding details, the administration will submit ordinances to the Richmond City Council in the coming weeks for consideration and public deliberation.

Below are Mayor Stoney’s remarks from earlier today:

North of Broad Project Announcement
Remarks (As Prepared for Delivery) by Mayor Levar M. Stoney
November 1, 2018

Good afternoon.
Thank you for coming.
Almost one year ago, I stood on the Observation Deck of City Hall to announce our plans to seek proposals to redevelop a forgotten neighborhood, and to revitalize underutilized city assets in the middle of our downtown, just north of Broad Street. The bold goals for this proposal were nothing less than to significantly improve the quality of life for all of Richmond’s residents.
This is why I insisted, from the very beginning, that any proposal include the creation of jobs and the hiring of local minority businesses.
That is why I insisted that any development include a significant number of affordable housing units.
That is why I insisted on a permanent replacement for the temporary GRTC transfer station, so that our hard-working residents can have a measure of comfort and dignity on their daily commutes to and from work.
We required that any plan include the historic preservation and adaptive reuse of the Blues Armory.
And we imposed one additional, very important condition on the RFP:
That we would not endorse any proposal that would require the city to use its existing tax revenue or debt capacity to fund the project.
And we would not support issuing any bonds that would require the City’s moral or general obligation to fund any component of the proposal. Meaning, we would not put the city’s solid financial footing at risk, or compromise its ability to finance its priorities of the future.
Ladies and gentlemen, today, I am pleased to announce that after eight months of hard work and very tough negotiation, I believe we have achieved agreement in principle on all of those goals.
And Richmond is one very large step closer to transforming not only its downtown, but the future of neighborhoods, schools and services throughout our city.
I will get into some of the specifics in a moment, but I called you here today to let you know that if we are able to successfully resolve several outstanding details in the coming weeks, my administration will be submitting ordinances to City Council representing an agreement with the nonprofit NH District Corporation to redevelop the Navy Hill neighborhood north of Broad Street.
If approved by the Council, this will easily be the largest economic development project in the history of our city. 
But more importantly it will be the largest economic empowerment project in our city’s history – one that is driven by our values -- and puts Richmonders first.
In the spirit of One Richmond – that is, creating a city that works for, and benefits, ALL of us…
With this project:

  • We will create 21,000 jobs -- including more than 9,000 permanent jobs and workforce training opportunities. Less than a mile away in Gilpin Court, 75 percent of our residents live in poverty. This project will offer economic opportunity to thousands of men and women who just need a helping hand.
  • This project will include more than $300 million in contracts for minority businesses – this will ensure that our talented minority contractors are in the game and NOT sitting on the sidelines.
  • We will build nearly 680 units of affordable housing – a substantial down payment on our goal of building 1,500 affordable units by 2023. We want those who work in this neighborhood to be able to live in it as well.
  • We will build a new GRTC transit center here in the heart of downtown, so that residents across our city can have a facility that offers shelter and dignity to our hardworking men and women who rely on public transit.
  • We will preserve and restore the historic Blues Armory - bringing it back to life as a centerpiece of this newly revitalized neighborhood.
  • And we will reconnect our street grid and raise Leigh Street so that we can create a true walkable and vibrant neighborhood that links to a resurgent Jackson Ward.

Employers and those in Richmond’s tourism industry have long said that we need an additional convention center hotel that could expand the city’s lodging capacity and allow it to compete with other cities for conventions and events, estimating that we have lost more than 31,000 lodging nights over the last five years to other cities with more capacity.
So this project will include an upscale 500-room hotel, with event space, retail and commercial opportunities.
They also said we needed a replacement for the decrepit, 46-year-old Richmond Coliseum, which is costing us more than $1.5 million every year to keep open and whose maintenance needs threaten to eat into our limited debt capacity.
So this project includes a state-of-the-art arena that will be the largest in Virginia – an asset that will allow us to compete not just with Charlottesville and Norfolk, but with the Charlottes and Nashvilles for major events and the revenues they bring.
I know Richmond is every bit the equal of these places.
For years now, achieving these goals – jobs, housing, neighborhood revitalization and economic empowerment – has been elusive.
We all know the problem – our city has many pressing needs, and we do not have the resources to meet these needs.
We know the state has shortchanged Richmond Public Schools in education funding.
And that same state government, which we are home to as a capital city, has many lovely buildings that occupy a substantial portion of our downtown – and don’t pay taxes.
We can – and we are – demanding more.
But until that happens, we can’t burden our homeowners and residents with more taxes and higher costs.
And we can’t cut our way to funding our schools, fixing our streets and delivering the level of services our residents and families deserve.
I was elected Mayor on the belief of what Richmond can do, of what it can become.
And today is about what Richmond can do.
With this project, we will leverage private investment and underutilized city assets in our downtown, to maximize growth that will benefit everyone in our city. This project represents a $1.4 billion investment that does not raise taxes and does not incur financial risk to the city.
It will generate an additional $1 billion in additional tax revenue over the next 30 years.
And we will use that additional revenue to finance the needs of our neighborhoods – for better schools, for better streets and for better core services.
Simply put, this is a game changer.
This is not a project into which we enter lightly. And frankly, the final agreement that we hope to present to Council in the coming weeks is very different from the proposal that was submitted to us in January.
As you know, my CAO Selena Cuffee-Glenn, our city attorney’s office and top city staff from multiple departments worked with our financial advisors, Davenport and Company, to review and negotiate the proposal.
And as you also know, I said publicly, (and we said privately in negotiations), that the proposal as initially presented to us on issues such as affordable housing and minority business contracting did not go far enough. We were not going to move forward without substantial changes in these and other aspects of the proposal.
As it stands, the $300 million worth of opportunity to our minority businesses in the agreement represents more economic opportunity than we have been able to create in the last ten years combined as a city for our minority businesses.
The 680 affordable housing units will also represent one of the greatest expansions of affordable housing in our history.
To ensure we were doing everything correctly, to make sure the numbers that we came up with were indeed, numbers that would work for the city, we added another layer of due diligence.
We directed Davenport & Company, our financial advisors, to hire an outside third party to review the projections and details of the proposal, including the Tax Increment Finance district that we propose to use to finance the city owned assets that are part of the project.
The independent analysis by Hunden Strategic Partners, which we will provide to you tomorrow, not only confirmed our own analysis, but forecasts greater revenue projections.
In fact, based on the analysis of our third party, we believe that this project could provide our city with over $1.7 billion of revenue over 30 years.
This far exceeds the revenue that would be generated if we did nothing.
Ladies and Gentleman, there is a cost for doing nothing.
And just to be clear, tax revenue from the proposed TIF will ONLY go toward paying the debt on the Blues Armory, the Arena, and bringing Leigh Street up to grade. The developers and bond holders will shoulder 100 % of the risk for this project. 
I believe that every Richmonder, every neighborhood, should share in our prosperity. Not just old Richmond, but new Richmond, in all its diversity and emerging talent. 
For me this is not about a new coliseum. This is about what this project allows us to do. If we do nothing we do not create over 20,000 jobs. If we do nothing we will not build nearly 700 new affordable homes. If we do nothing we will not generate a billion dollars in revenue that can be used to make critical investments in our neighborhoods – our schools, our streets and our services.    
We must grow the pie so that everyone gets a piece. Either we take the steps and the unique opportunity we have now with this project to make a transformative difference in the lives of our residents, or we do nothing -- and keep waiting and hoping for all this to happen, without the additional investment needed to make it happen.
I am so proud of the work of many people throughout the city who have helped us reach this point today – it is truly a partnership between the public, non-profit and private sectors working together.
And while the work is not yet done, I would be remiss if I did not recognize the determination, focus and diligence of my team, led by Chief Administrative Officer Selena Cuffee Glenn and her directors, City Attorney Allen Jackson and his team, Matt Welch from economic development and David Rose, Roland Kooch and Jimmy Sanderson from Davenport.
This project simply would not be possible without the dedication and engagement of our business community. I’d like to recognize, and thank Tom Farrell, CT Hill and the board of NH for forming this nonprofit entity to submit this proposal, and acknowledge Union Bank CEO John Asbury for his institution’s substantial commitment to this transformational project.
These leaders have not only have invested in Richmond, but they also share a love for this city. They understand its many needs. And they believe, like we all do, in Richmond’s potential for greatness, and for that, I thank you. 
We also would not have reached today without the support of one of our leading non-profit organizations in the city, The Community Foundation. 
The Community Foundation recognized the transformative nature of this project and has committed $5 million dollars to the affordable housing component of the work.
Thank you, Sherrie Brach Armstrong, for the amazing way The Community Foundation is partnering with us on this.
I’d also like to recognize and thank Greta Harris with the Better Housing Coalition for being here today and for your commitment and partnership in the affordable housing component of this project.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is an important day for our city. It is an opportunity.
The cynics out there will point to all the things we can’t do. They will point to projects in the past that were either ill-conceived, or poorly timed or poorly executed, that never lived up to their potential, and some of that is true.
But this is the wrong way to think about our future. This is an old Richmond way of thinking --that Richmond shouldn’t try to do great things today; that she can’t do great things tomorrow.
Well, we can, and we will.
This city has grown. I am standing here before you as proof that the Richmond of yesterday is not the Richmond of today, or more importantly of tomorrow.
We are changing. We are making progress. And now is not the time not to let our past fears define our future opportunities.
I encourage City Council to take the time it needs to review this agreement once it is submitted, and I encourage the public to ask questions of the developer and of my administration. Everyone will have the chance to kick the tires, as we have. I am excited about embarking on this process, and what we can accomplish for our city together.
This is a game changer.
This is our time. This is our chance to pass on prosperity to everyone in our city, and to secure a better future for our children.
Let’s make it happen.
Thank you.

Monday, October 22, 2018

ICYMI: ‘More funding leads to better schools, stronger students’

Mayor Levar M. Stoney contributed as a guest columnist for The Virginian-Pilot on October 21, 2018. He asks residents from across Virginia to join him in the March For More on December 8 from Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School to Capitol Square. The mayor’s column is reprinted below:

Virginia’s approach to education funding is failing its children. Old buildings, staffing cuts, stagnant salaries, outdated technology and dwindling school supplies are just a few of the issues plaguing the learning environments for students across the commonwealth. When we fail to take action to address the needs of our children, we compromise their futures, and ours.

As recently reported in The Pilot, Hampton Roads schools are struggling with similar issues to the ones we are facing in Richmond. Many of our school buildings are well beyond their lifespan and are literally crumbling. They are no longer the safe, healthy environments our students need to thrive. But these facilities are just one part of the education crisis facing us today — our entire K-12 education system is woefully underfunded.

While the impact is felt directly by the students, the root cause rests with the commonwealth of Virginia. For too long, the leaders of the Virginia General Assembly have failed to acknowledge the true cost of educating our children — ignoring the price of technology upgrades, transportation, debt service on new schools, broadband service, the need for additional school nurses, school psychologists, counselors and principals, and other essential components of a 21st century education.

Instead, they have established their own calculation of educating students, called the Standards of Quality, which fails to account for these costs. Even by the state’s own calculation of the SOQ, the State Board of Education estimates that the Virginia General Assembly is shortchanging public schools by nearly $600 million per year, putting even more pressure on local governments to fill the gaps.

In 2009, when the recession hit, state funding for education dropped significantly. However, we are nine years into a robust economic recovery, and the state funding level for K-12 education has not even returned to pre-recession levels. Since 2009, state funding for K-12 education funding is down 9 percent, while overall student population has grown by 5 percent. In Richmond, the numbers are even more discouraging; state funding is down 19 percent, while our student population has grown by 9 percent.

It’s the same story in Hampton Roads, where I attended Tabb High School in Yorktown and was the first in my family to attend college. The state funding for Norfolk, Hampton and Virginia Beach city public schools has fallen sharply per student, down anywhere from 13 percent to 18 percent since 2009. The inadequate funding that the commonwealth provides is not just taking a toll on urban school districts. In fact, these same challenges are faced by rural school districts and a growing number of suburban school districts, where there has been an increase in poverty and new Americans.

As the state does less, localities are doing more for education. Collectively, Virginia localities invested $4 billion above the required local share for SOQ programs in 2016-17 alone. While most localities are increasing their contributions to K-12 education, the commonwealth is not fulfilling its obligation under the Virginia Constitution to ensure that an educational system of high quality is established and maintained.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the state’s formula for funding economically disadvantaged students, a program called the "at-risk add-on." Virginia ranks among the lowest in the country in providing additional funding for educating students from low-income families. I grew up as one of those students, on free and reduced lunch and unable to afford the deposits that would have allowed me to take my school books home. Failing to provide for the most vulnerable among us today is not just unacceptable, it is immoral.

Localities such as Richmond, Norfolk, Virginia Beach and the school districts across the commonwealth — from Lee County to Accomack, from Page to Halifax — must unite. We must call upon the members of the Virginia General Assembly this January to live up to their obligations by taking action to fully fund the $594 million gap in the Standards of Quality and then determine and fund the true costs of K-12 education that the SOQs do not cover.

More funding for better schools will lead to stronger students. It is an investment in our future we need to make now.

It is a promise to our children that we must keep.


Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Mayor Stoney and Superintendent Kamras Announce Arts-Integrated Early Learning Initiative

Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney and Richmond School Superintendent Jason Kamras joined Virginia First Lady Pamela Northam and State School Superintendent Dr. James Lane
October 10 at Martin Luther King, Jr. Preschool Center to announce Richmond Performing Arts Alliance (RPAA) as the 19th affiliate organization of Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Preschool Center ‘drumline,’ Tappin’ Crew performed before the event. Media was allowed into classrooms to observe Wolf Trap teaching artists providing arts-integrated experiences to preschoolers.