Reconsidering (Epic) Failure

By John R. Butcher and
Carol A.O.Wolf


Pity Richmond's newly minted Mayor Levar Stoney. 

He's been learning the hard way lately that the view from the state capitol and Governor Terry McAuliffe's office is much different from the one in the Mayor's office at Richmond City Hall.  

Who would have thought fixing Richmond Public Schools could be so complicated?  Who would have thought that the parents and teachers of RPS would get so upset about his proposed Education Compact?  

Opponents fear that the Compact as written could open the floodgates to privitization of various RPS functions including the wholesale introduction of corporate charter schools to educate our children. Despite repeated assurances that those fears have no foundation, parents, teachers and other education advocates just aren't buying it. I have yet to meet anyone who thinks it is a smart idea to have our tax dollars sucked up by outside entities whose priority is the bottom-line -- not what is best for our children.  

In anticipation of the argument that we ought to at least bring in a charter school corporate entity (for profit or non-profit) to help educate our young people and see if it could work, I submit:  we've been there, done that and we have the banking records to prove we wasted millions of dollars on these seemingly good ideas that never quite fulfilled the expectation or the need.  

Over the years RPS outsourced our transportation department, fleet services repair, nutritional services, custodial, heating and air conditioning, building construction and maintenance, security services, legal services and yes, the education of our children who present serious behavioral issues that get in the way of other students who are trying to learn something.  

Each effort proved to be an epic failure. The common problem to each is that when the outside entities arrive, RPS administrators historically take a hands-off,  rather than a hands-on supervisory role. Any School Board members who might be interested upholding their Oath of Office to be financial stewards of our tax dollars how the tax dollars are being spent, are brushed back and told that it is not their job to "micro-manage."

So, let us begin this discussion of RPS' record of *outsourcing* by examining what happened with the vendors that were brought in to help the district address the needs of our children with behavior and disciplinary issues.  

A relatively recent article in The Atlantic discusses outsourced alternative schools and Richmond Alternative in particular.  

To the point here, RPS hired Community Education Partners in 2004 to run a school for disruptive students.  In 2013, RPS took the school over, saving about $2 million per year. They now have hired Camelot Education to take it over.
The pass rate history (sorry, 2005 is as far back as the database goes) shows that CEP was doing a remarkable job with a tough crowd, and RPS then demonstrated that it could not handle those students.
(Remember “2013” as you look at these graphs.  Also recall that the new math tests lowered scores statewide in 2012 and new tests in English and science did the same thing in 2013, albeit more in Richmond in all three cases.)
Indeed, with the lowest division average in reading last year and the second lowest in math, RPS has demonstrated that it can’t educate the non-disruptive students either.
Your tax dollars “at work.”