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 mo.nitor legislative negotiations on the state budget, see http://leg2.state.va.us/MoneyWeb.NSF/sb2011
With a nod to Arbor Day, Citizen seeks photos, descriptions of significant Henrico trees
Citizen Staff Reports 04/28/2015
Do you have a favorite tree in Henrico?
Do you know of a tree with an interesting story?
Do you live near an especially large, old, or otherwise unusual tree – or do you pass by one that has always intrigued you?
Arbor Day 2015 (April 24) was last week, and though the Citizen has published stories about a few special trees over the years (see sidebar) we know that our readers can lead us to more. > Read more.
Henrico's most famous tree, known as the Surrender Tree, still stood for more than a century near the intersection of Osborne Turnpike and New Market Road -- until June 2012.
It was in the shade of that tree on April 3, 1865, that Richmond mayor Joseph Mayo met Major Atherton Stevens and troops from the 4th Massachusetts Cavalry and handed over a note surrendering the city to Federal troops. Evacuation had already begun. > Read more.
The Greater Richmond ARC's annual Ladybug Wine Tasting and Silent Auction on April 11 netted $75,165 to benefit its Infant and Child Development Services (ICDS) program.
About 350 guests sampled fine West Coast wines and craft beer from Midnight Brewery at Richmond Raceway Complex's Torque Club, along with food from local eateries. Carytown Cupcakes provided dessert. > Read more.
In the mood for some spring shopping? Eastern Henrico FISH will hold their semi-annual yard sale this weekend – funds raised assist at-risk families in Eastern Henrico County. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden will hold a spring plant sale which is among the largest in the region with more than 40 vendors selling plants ranging from well-known favorites to rare exotics. Put on your detective hat and find out “whodunnit” at the movie “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” and “The Case of the Dead Flamingo Dancer,” presented by the Henrico Theatre Company May 1-17. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
It’s that time of year – charity races are popping up everywhere! On Saturday, St. Joseph’s Villa will be the site of the sixth annual CASA Superhero Run and the fifth annual Richmond Free to Breathe Run/Walk will be held in Innsbrook. Also in Innsbrook, the 2015 Richmond Take Steps for Crohn’s and Colitis will take place on Sunday. If you’re more into relaxation than exercise, check out Wine for Cure’s Dogwood Wine Festival or the Troubadours Community Theatre Group’s production of “West Side Story” at the Henrico Theatre. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
There are several fun events this weekend taking place outside including the third annual Virginia Firefighter Games at Short Pump Town Center; Twin Hickory Park’s “April Showers: A Celebration of Spring” event; the Young Life Richmond West 5k in Innsbrook; and the Gold Festival on Broad which benefits Prevent Child Abuse Virginia. Fingers crossed for no rain! For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
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