I attended public school for K-12 and college, and the education I received at these public institutions shaped my career and the man I am today. My high school history and government teachers are the reason why I majored in political science at Virginia Tech, which served as a great launchpad for my career in public service.
I understand how important good schools are for our children and families. Our kids deserve the opportunity and education needed to flourish throughout their lives. That’s why I promised in my 2016 campaign for City Council that I would put our schools first.
My City Council colleagues and I have fully funded RPS for the past three years. City Council has given RPS every cent their leadership has asked for. Despite the coronavirus, RPS’s budget is still set to increase by $6 million this year.
RPS’s budget has increased by $22 million since 2016, a 15% increase . While there is still more work to do, Richmond has tackled head-on the funding and infrastructure challenges Richmond’s schools face. Our teachers are better paid, our schools have more staff, and our classrooms have more resources now than they did four years ago.
I was a student-athlete when I was in high school, and I still use the lessons I learned on the field today. Creating better schools is not just about funding and buildings; it’s about what programs they offer our children too. I brought the NextUp RVA after-school program to Albert Hill to give our kids quality educational opportunities outside of the classroom. NextUp RVA engages students in a variety of constructive activities between when school ends and when many parents get home from work. Through this program, students have the chance to learn chess, gardening, music, performing arts, visual arts, and more. We know that access to educational activities outside of the classroom give students a leg up in school and in life, and I am proud to have added opportunities for our students during my time on City Council.
I have been highly engaged with our schools as your city councilman. I visit Mary Munford, Fox, Albert Hill, and Thomas Jefferson once a month during the school year with our School Board member, Liz Doerr. Liz and I have the closest relationship out of any elected officials in Richmond, and we have taken the time to know our schools and our students.
My top priority during this crisis is helping students and families. My plan centers on giving parents and students the resources they need to make ends meet and succeed in school. Richmond Public Schools, our students, and our families are facing immense challenges right now.
I am working hard to make sure more of our students have access to the internet. Verizon has already started installing 5G internet infrastructure in our public housing neighborhoods, and I am working with them, Richmond businesses, and charities to get our students devices that can connect to the internet. Despite the pandemic, our children still need to learn the skills required to thrive in adulthood, and parents deserve help during this difficult time. This infrastructure will last beyond this pandemic and shows us that our city can come out of this crisis stronger than it was before.
I pledge to continue prioritizing funding for school infrastructure. Despite building three new schools since 2016, many of our schools are still in disrepair. Our students should not have to learn in schools that have dangerous mold problems, leaky roofs, or broken heating and cooling systems. I am actively engaging state-level lawmakers to help Richmond and localities like us build and repair schools.
I will do everything I can to prevent spending cuts to our schools and to grow our schools’ budget. Coronavirus is forcing City Council to review every dime in the city’s budget. As we decide how to change the city’s budget to deal with our new reality, our schools are my top priority, and we will protect the gains we’ve made in the past four years.
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