RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — After weeks of debate and even a vote delay last week, the Richmond School Board voted 6-3 on Monday to send a two-year budget plan to Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney for approval.
Despite plans to vote on Feb. 19, the school board postponed the vote and decided to schedule a meeting for Monday to further discuss budget proposals for RPS.
The budget proposal has brought up several questions for teachers: how many people will lose their jobs? What departments will see the biggest impact?
The budget plan would slash about $13 million from the central office and put nearly 50 jobs on the chopping block.
School board member Kenya Gibson, one of three to vote against the budget plan on Monday, shared the following statement with 8News after the vote took place:
Tonight the board voted to approve a budget that missed the mark. We missed an opportunity to address critical needs like improved healthcare benefits for staff, classroom furniture, and substitute teachers.
Beyond that, we missed an opportunity build trust and show this city what good governance and transparency looks like.
We can do better.
But there is still time to make this right. We can advocate for the funding we need from the city. We can continue to push for a final budget that puts essential needs first. We can continue to demand that clear documentation of tonight’s vote is made public.
Let’s show this city how to truly represent the people.
-Kenya Gibson, School Board Representative – 3rd District
Dozens of RPS employees came out in full force speaking against the two-year budget proposal in front of school members during the meeting on Feb. 19.
“This shows a blatant disrespect for all of us that helped to take care of your operational needs. And I think before a budget is approved,” said RPS employee Tina Garrison. “Maybe there should be things that are looked at as budget cuts other than jobs.”
“What’s the plan once you eliminate the job?” asked Armstrong High School teacher Angela Dues. “When will the staff be informed that their services are no longer needed?”
Felicia Cosby, a Richmond School Board member, brought up the idea of holding off on moving forward with the proposed budget during the meeting.
“We have to think very carefully because these cuts could potentially have very long-reaching and long-lasting implications,” Cosby said on Feb. 19.
“The priority of our students is lacking,” said parent Vanessa Johnson.
With millions of cuts on the table, RPS parent Vanessa Johnson said she hopes some of the money can buy new desks and chairs for her son and students at Thomas Jefferson High School.
“My child doesn’t deserve to be learning in these types of conditions along with the faculty members,” Johnson told 8News.
With the majority of cuts expected to be coming out of the offices of schools and operations, about 49 jobs, the people who work in communications and facilities could be impacted.
“That includes the things that candidly haven’t been doing very well,” said RPS board member Jonathan Young. “A lot of the departments that have been dinged in recent reports for a lot of inefficiencies.”
Specific cuts have not been released to the public, leaving parents wondering who will take over the work.
“Will that be coming down to the schools to the teachers to do?” asked Betsy Milburn, RPS parent. “Will that be rolled into someone else’s job? I don’t feel there’s a clear picture of that. Because if we are to hold schools harmless with these cuts, by moving the job downstream to a school means you are putting more work on an already overburdened staff.”
In January, the administration originally presented the cuts as a way to make up for a deficit and a built-in pay increase for teachers.
“Then they will tell people in May if they are going to have a job in July,” Milburn said. “Or are people going to quit before then?”
RPS board member Young told 8News the cuts will help the $300 million strategic plan over the next ten years.
Young suggested disclosing the jobs that would be cut but some board members said it would violate the privacy of select RPS employees.
The RPS support staff released a statement last week in response to concerns over potential cuts:
On behalf of the entire support personnel, this message is only a brief representation of our silenced voices.
WE totally understand the need to cut jobs, but working in an already under-staffed district puts an extra hardship on those who already are giving 110%.
There are so many questions……
• What’s the plan once you eliminate the jobs?
• When are you going to inform staff that their services are no longer needed?
• How will you compensate those who have to pick up the slack?
• Are you thinking this through? Do you fully understand the job that is being eliminated?
Although you are a new administration and feel it’s your due diligence to right the wrongs of previous administration, this is bigger than RPS, go to those legislatives and ask for additional funding!
You are trying to right-fit a budget that has NEVER been fully-funded and NEVER will. Historical knowledge is in place for a reason…..utilize it.
Thanks for hearing our concerns and we hope that as a School Board, you not only have the students in mind but the staff as well because despite what the Superintendent states, this will trickle down to the classroom.