Who Knows Where the Money Goes?
Come, Let us Count the Amounts ...
Given that the Epic Fail of the 2012 Richmond Public School (RPS) Budget Battle is all over but for the caterwauling, RPS Superintendent Yvonne Brandon, some School Board members [past and present] and RPS administrators [retired and not] are predictably blaming others for their defeat.
Consequently, it comes as no surprise that morale among RPS teachers, students and their families is at an all-time low as is confidence in all elected School Board officials, except for 2nd District member Kimberly B. Gray.
Gray has fought relentlessly for the past four years to get some straight answers about RPS costs. Simply put: her colleagues have not. Rather than take time to scrutinize the budget for cost savings and work with Mayor Dwight C. Jones, a blue-ribbon Task Force of savvy education and business heavy-hitters, Richmond City Council and the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the members of this School Board refused to make any cuts. Really.
Even worse -- they flat-out refused to accept any recommendations from the Mayor's office and staff, the Education Task Force appointed by Jones or Robert Bobb's consulting group.
Instead of helping Gray perform her statutory duty (and theirs), her colleagues openly (and often) broke out the pom-pons and praisesongs for RPS administrators and tried to bully her into silence. Instead of seizing the moment and working together to achieve real cost-savings and education reform, RPS School Board members decided to plead poor mouth and ratchet up the rhetoric.
Undaunted and unconvinced by the maunderings manufactured by Brandon and the RPS School Board, retired attorney John R. Butcher decided to investigate. Visit his website:@ http://crankytaxpayer.org/Schools/cost.htm, to see his excellent analysis of RPS costs and suggestions of ways to trim the budget.
Zachary Reid of The Richmond Times-Dispatch and I both heard (and he reported on March 21, 2012) that: "Before Brandon suggested possible cuts to in the afternoon meeting, [Maurice] Henderson dared the task force to leave the school system alone. "
Richmond Magazine's reporter, Chris Dovi, quoted board member Evette Wilson publicly ranting about how she thought the Mayor's State of the City Speech was "very insulting" and board member Chandra Smith saying that "the mayor can hold public hearings all he wants [....] this board is the only one that can go back in [the school board budget] and make final decisions [....] We're the final say. Let's use it as a tool.
Lost beneath all this tomfoolery are the ugly facts: Richmond spends some $2,947 per student more than the state average; yet on last year's SOL scores RPS was seventh from the bottom division on the reading test and fourth from the bottom on math. Indeed, after correcting for salary differences, number of teachers, poverty, geography, special education, and O&M costs, Richmond is wasting something like $40 million per year to get those lousy results.
The problem is not that RPS needs more money; the problem is that they are wasting money and harming the students in their system.