Teachers rally for public school funding

A crowd of more than 200 people chanted, “Senate stand firm!” as the last speaker stepped off the podium and into the swarm of Virginia Education Association members and supporters at a Capitol Square rally this week.

The rally, which took place Monday at the Bell Tower on the Capitol grounds, focused on funding for public education in kindergarten through high school. Educators bemoaned budget cuts that public schools have experienced in recent years and said the trend must be reversed.

Ten speakers at the rally urged support for the Senate’s version of the 2012 state budget – instead of the House’s version. The Senate plan would increase funding for public schools.

The advocates included the presidents of the Virginia NAACP, the Virginia School Boards Association and the Virginia Association of School Superintendents.

“We expect education to be the top priority of our legislature and make sure that education gets a fair share,” said Marie Harris-Jones, a Petersburg resident representing two nonprofit groups – JustChildren and the Alliance for Virginia’s Students. “Our children and the long-term health of our community are depending on it.”

At the rally, speakers said budget cuts already have damaged public education in Virginia:

• More than 4,400 positions have been eliminated in the state’s public schools during the past two years.

• Class sizes have increased, reducing the attention each student can receive from the teacher.

• School divisions have been forced to cut programs, eliminate electives and increase student fees.

• Instructional supplies and equipment funding have been cut.

• Per pupil funding has decreased from $5,300 in 2008-09 to $4,500 in 2011-12, a reduction of 15 percent.

Speakers said it’s time to undo the damage, not make it worse.

“You can’t have a good community if you can’t have good schools,” said Edwin Daley, vice president of the Virginia Municipal League.

The General Assembly is amending the state’s budget for the 2012 fiscal year. Gov. Bob McDonnell has requested $5.5 billion for K-12 education. The Senate’s amendments would provide additional funding of more than $100 million for public schools.

In contrast, the budget amendments approved by the House of Delegates would provide about $93 million less than the governor’s proposal. A committee of senators and delegates is negotiating on a final budget.

Besides school funding, speakers turned the crowd’s attention to House Bill 2314 sponsored by Delegate James P. “Jimmie” Massie III, R-Henrico.

The bill would establish a tax credit for corporations that donate to nonprofit organizations that provide scholarships to low-income students to attend non-public elementary and secondary schools.

The VEA and its supporters oppose the bill because they say it would benefit private schools and undermine public schools.

VEA President Kitty Boitnott said the state-assisted scholarships in effect would be vouchers for students to attend private schools.

“When did we last have school vouchers in Virginia?” Boitnott asked. She said the Rev. J. Rayfield Vines Jr., president of the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP, “can tell you: in the era of Massive Resistance, when many public schools were closed rather than letting children of color into the classrooms of Virginia.

"Now the House wants a voucher rebirth in Virginia.”

Boitnott called HB 2314 “a school voucher bill in the guise of tuition tax credits, and our governor supports it.”

McDonnell has said that scholarships supported by tax credits would help provide more opportunities for low-income students.

“This tax credit will open the door to new educational opportunities for more of our young people. By incentivizing business leaders to donate to organizations that provide scholarships, we will help our children gain access to new educational opportunities, with no cost to the state,” the governor said last month in laying out his education agenda.

“Education is opportunity, and every student deserves the opportunity of the very best education we can give them.”

Massie agreed, saying, “Too often students aren’t able to reach their full potential because the school they attend is not the best fit and their families can’t afford to send them to a nonpublic school. By providing this tax incentive for employers, we will be able to provide school options for students and their parents, in order for them to get the education they deserve, at no cost to the state.”

To track or comment on House Bill 2314, visit http://www.richmondsunlight.com/bill/2011/hb2314. To monitor legislative negotiations on the state budget, see http://leg2.state.va.us/MoneyWeb.NSF/sb2011.
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Section of Lauderdale Drive to be closed April 26 for drainage improvements


The westbound lanes of Lauderdale Drive will be closed between John Rolfe Parkway and Cambridge Drive on Wednesday, April 26 for drainage improvements.

The lanes are expected to be closed from approximately 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Motorists will be detoured from westbound Lauderdale onto John Rolfe, Gayton Road and Cambridge before being directed back onto Lauderdale. > Read more.

Henrico Police to host prescription drug take-back event April 29


The Henrico County Division of Police and the U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration will participate in the nationwide Prescription Drug Take Back Program Saturday, April 29. The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Henrico County Training Center, 7701 East Parham Road, next to the Public Safety Building.

The program is free and anonymous. Unused or expired pills, patches and liquid prescriptions (in their sealed original container) will be accepted. Needles and sharp items will not be accepted. No questions will be asked. > Read more.

Henrico home sales rose in March

Parts of the greater Richmond real estate market experienced an increase in the number of homes sold during the month of March, according to Long & Foster.

The number of homes sold increased in much of the Richmond region in March compared to year-ago levels. In Henrico County, the number of homes rose by 16 percent. Median sale prices varied in the Richmond region in March when compared to the same month last year. In both Hanover and Henrico counties, the median sale price rose by 10 percent. > Read more.

Henrico house fire contained quickly


APR. 24, 9:15 A.M. – A house fire in Henrico's West End Sunday caused minor damage but resulted in no injuries. At about noon Sunday, Henrico Emergency Communications Officers received phone calls of smoke coming from a home in the 1700 block of Shewalt Circle, just one block off Hungary Road. > Read more.

Business in brief


The Jenkins Foundation has granted The McShin Foundation $25,000 for residential recovery services to serve those with a Substance Use Disorder. The Jenkins Foundation is focused on equitable access to health care services, as well as programs that help reduce risky behaviors and promote safe and healthy environments. The McShin Foundation was founded in 2004 and is Virginia's leading non-profit, full-service Recovery Community Organization (RCO), committed to serving individuals and families in their fight against Substance Use Disorders. > Read more.
Community

YMCA event will focus on teen mental health


The YMCA, in partnership with the Cameron K. Gallagher Foundation and PartnerMD, will host a free event May 2 to help parents learn how to deal with teen mental health issues. “When the Band-Aid Doesn’t Fix It: A Mom’s Perspective on Raising a Child Who Struggles” will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Shady Grove Family YMCA,11255 Nuckols Road. The event will focus on education, awareness, and understanding the issues facing teens today. > Read more.

Villa’s Flagler Housing wins national NAEH award


St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.

Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.
Entertainment

Restaurant Watch


Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

 

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The Museum District Association’s 23rd annual Mother’s Day House & Garden Tour will take place from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. The tour provides a rare opportunity for guests to go inside some of Richmond’s most beautiful and historic homes, gardens and institutions. The hospitality center is located at the Virginia Historical Society. A tour trolley will run continuously between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. Tour proceeds benefit non-profit agencies in the Richmond area and help protect and beautify this historic neighborhood. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 the day of. For details, visit http://www.museumdistrict.org. Full text

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