Dedicated funding, a close reality
If you need to catch up, read our past articles (one, two, and three) on Councilman Baliles' attempt to establish a dedicated funding source for (60.8% real estate and 1 cent meals tax) for schools. We even put together this snappy one-pager for communication. Although introduced in June, they met strong resistance from City administration and with 2 of 3 members of the Finance committee against, they've been put on hold.
In the past few weeks, our FUNpoly team has been contacting City Council and City administration to help find a path forward. Good news, we might have found a solution with a model developed by Roanoke, the "Star City of the South."
The Roanoke 40
Schools receive 40% of all property and other local tax receipts levied by the City and schools pay 100% of the debt service associated with capital projects.
City administration liked that it wasn't beholden to a specific tax (real estate or meals). Council members liked that it shifts payment of debt service to schools which would inform decision making by factoring the cost of servicing major capital projects into their budget. Our FUNpoly team liked the simplicity and the fact that as the city grows economically, which it will, schools funding increases.
Funding schools at 40% of local taxes, 60.8% of real estate tax, or the entire meals tax will not fully meet the needs of our student population.
According to the Commonwealth Institute, the cost of educating a student living in poverty can be as much as 2.5 times that of educating a student living in wealth. With 97.6% students free and reduced lunch eligible, Richmond's per pupil spending should climb from $13,601 to $23,801 if using Hanover County as a baseline ($9,711 per pupil and 20% free and reduced lunch) to meet state recommended levels for funding.
The first domino
Although 40% local taxes isn't enough, the solution won't come from local revenues alone. To rise to the necessary level of funding we'll need to cobble together a package of state LCI changes, achieving long-term partnerships with private investors and service providers, capturing dollars lost to non-taxable government/medical/educational property, and strategic economic development.
What stops all these efforts is our annual budget argument. When the Mayor, City Council, and School Board fight its a "plague on both the houses." It drains all involved and prevents us from getting to more important issues (outside of funding) that impact student outcomes, which include:
- State-advocacy to improve/remove SOLs
- Parent involvement and communication
- Recruiting and retaining stellar teachers, principals, and support staff
- Pursuing diversity targets for regional student integration
- Examining our suspension practices to stop a prison to school pipeline
- Integrating trauma informed management practices into our classrooms
ALL OF THESE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN DEDICATED FUNDING OR FACILITY MAINTENANCE, BUT WE'LL NEVER GET TO THOSE DISCUSSIONS IF WE CONTINUE TO SPEND ALL OUR ENERGY FIGHTING OVER BUDGETS OR REPAIRING FAILING BUILDINGS.
Dedicated funding is the start of the domino chain that improves the structure of our system and dialogue.
How can we make dedicated funding for schools a reality?
We received feedback that "The Roanoke 40" could be a solution, but haven't seen any official papers introduced. We want this to happen before the election because the budget process is already underway and it can help inform us when voting this November.
Contact City Council to introduce an ordinance backing "The Roanoke 40" and let them know about your support.
- Contact your City Councilperson today and express your interest in supporting "The Roanoke 40" for dedicated school funding. Go to our homepage and click on the "City Council" image for a one-click option to generate an email blast. You can use talking points and the image for this update to help.
- Show up to the Finance committee meeting this Thursday (9/22) at 2pm in Council Chambers. Public comment will be permitted at the end of discussion on Baliles' ORD2016-137 and -140.
- Show up and speak out at Monday's City Council meeting during public comment at 6pm. 3-minutes per speaker and be sure to call the City Clerk (646-7955) beforehand to sign up.
Let's make this the biggest pre-election event ever! We've had over 1,000 people RSVP so booked the VMFA overflow room, so we've get room for plenty more. The details are below and be sure to check out the candidates responses and share/like the event Facebook page!
- September 29th at the VMFA’s Leslie Creek Theater (6:30 to 8pm)
- It’s FREE, so bring yourself and others
- RSVP so we can get a headcount
- Reception to follow from 8 to 9pm
We're finalizing the debate questions now, and trust me you're not going to miss this one. Dress lightly because we're bringing the heat.