© 2019 Thad Williamson. Authorized and Paid For By Thad Williamson For Richmond City Council.

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Fifty Fixes for the 5th #10: Make the Education Compact Work

Fix #10. Make the Education Compact Work

This week's posts have highlighted some crucial aspects of the RPS strategic plan: early education, supporting teachers and staff, focusing on connecting students to career and college.

Dreams4RPS is an ambitious plan. It needs to be, because the challenges it seeks to tackle are massive.

This means it’s not an inexpensive plan. In the near future, the Mayor and City Council are going to have to decide whether they are willing to fully back the forthcoming financial requests associated with the plan.

This is where the Education Compact comes in. The Compact has two principal ideas: first, the Mayor (who proposes the budget), the City Council (which takes final action on the budget), and Richmond Public Schools (the single biggest line item in the budget) should commit to year-round communication and collaboration. It’s a good thing for RPS to be able to share its needs, plans and progress with the Mayor and City Council at more than just budget time; and it’s a good thing for the Mayor and City Council to get regular updates on progress and be able to ask question, all year long.

The second thought behind the Compact is that to make transformational progress in Richmond, we need to take a holistic approach: addressing the needs of kids inside and outside the classroom. Agencies like Parks & Recreation, Library, Social Services, Justice Service, the Office of Community Wealth Building, and myriad nonprofit organizations receiving grants from the City all are serving the same students and families in RPS, with aligned goals.

Therefore the agencies should be talking to each other on a regular basis to find opportunities for collaboration, mutual support, and resource maximization, and we should be working towards having a single community-wide plan for children and families that draws on and supports the work of each of these agencies. The Children’s Cabinet of the Education Compact is working toward just that aim.

Going forward, the role of the Compact should only grow, if City Council fully buys in. As with all city agencies, there needs to be a balance of support and accountability with respect to Richmond Public Schools. The Schools should be expected to document their proposed use of funds in detail, and they should be expected to report out to the public on a regular basis on the use of the funds allocated. That’s the fundamental basis of accountability.

As a member of City Council, I will work to make the Education Compact work. That means pushing both the City administration and RPS to be as clear as possible in justifying their budget proposals, and as transparent as possible in reporting out progress. It means pushing towards a holistic, comprehensive schools-and-community plan to support our families.

It also means aggressively going after philanthropic support, state funding, and federal funding to enhance RPS’s resource base.

And it means committing to find the local public dollars needed to fund that plan (or explaining to the public clearly why the plan can’t be fully funded in a given year).

My goal as a City Council member will be to find the dollars to fund plans that have a fighting chance to bring about the transformation of lives and educational outcomes our city needs and our children deserve; but it will also be to hold RPS (and partner agencies) accountable for dollars allocated.

I believe voters in the 5th District and throughout the City want to see RPS and our children succeed. But they also want to know (and be shown) that their tax dollars are being well spent, and that every effort is being made to garner funds from other sources (state, federal, philanthropic).

That’s the dual responsibility of service on City Council—a responsibility I readily embrace.