Since Mayor Dwight C. Jones publicly rebuked the School Board's inability and stubborn refusal to even try to cut a nickel from its $147.5 million budget request from the city, the board tried (and failed) to schedule a hastily called meeting last Friday to take up the issue of the Mayor appointing his own 10-member advisory panel to suggest cuts to the board's budget. They might have succeeded in having what would have been an illegal meeting had Richmond Magazine's Chris Dovi not been awake and alert enough to put a stop to it.
Not to be outdone by Jones, the RPS board currently has a notice on its website inviting the public to attend a series of public "conversations" to dispel "myths" about the RPS budget, but the notice significantly fails to include a link that might directly take anyone interested in viewing the budget, to the actual budget, prior to attending a "conversation." The only way to get to see the actual budget online requires you to think like RPS -- go to the main RPS website, click on departments, once there click on Budget & Finance, once there, click on "Important Documents," once there, click on "school-board approved budget," and wait.
But, in order to generate even more public suggestions on ways to help the Richmond School Board do the job that they were elected to do, Save Our Schools education blog, hereby announces a $100 prize to be awarded to the best list of cuts from the budget that does no harm to the classroom and comes closest to $23.8 million. That's right -- $100 cash. Your cuts must NOT hit the classroom. Send your suggestions here!
In both symbol and substance, RPS' most recent threat to cut programs such as the International Baccalaureate (IB), the Governor's Schools (Maggie Walker and Appomattox), spanish language, athletics and field trips (!) while at the same time not eliminating a 1 percent across the board bonus for employees -- roughly $1.5 million -- is utterly absurd, obscene and politically tone-deaf. How stupid do they think we are? How can they possibly believe that the people of this city will not be offended by such a ham-handed manipulative tactic?
To be sure, budgets are moral documents that reveal the values and priorities of the people who make them. The entrenched refusal of the School Board to even try to cut from current RPS budget proposal reveals a cynical and corrupt culture maddeningly determined to damn the torpedoes and destroy itself. Once again, the children and taxpayers of the city are the ones who suffer the greatest collateral damage.