RICHMOND, Va. – Surprise? According to a story in today’s RTD, the Richmond School Chief and School Board have finally reacted to an analysis I made back in 2005 when the first “Fantasy Baseball” scheme got spun about how we could get a “free” Shockoe Baseball Stadium due to some magic financing.
That’s right, back in 2005 I pointed out the more the city spent on “fantasy baseball” in the Bottom, the less there might ultimately be to improve the Richmond Public School system, assuming folks wanted to make needed changes.
Mayor Wilder got it and killed the silly fantasy plan in about 10 seconds.
He then proposed the “City of the Future” plan, a down payment on modernizing schools, not building a stadium in Shockoe. Council backed and praised it. But of course, all they have done is talk the talk, not walk the walk.
Finally, nine years later, the School Chief and School Board have played Mayor Jones’ latest version of Kevin Costner’s “Field of Dreams” and found out that “if he builds it, they will come” is a Hollywood script, not something that can educate the kids.
Fantasy Baseball 4.0 – Jones’ latest $100-200 million game about baseball in the Bottom – didn’t work once the School Chief and the School Board looked at the numbers.
Under Jones, school funding is down relative to 2005 and his Shockoe Stadium boondoggle is UP.
The new School Chief and School Board are upset.
BUT LET’S BE FRANK, this is hardly a profile in courage. OF COURSE they want more money, that is hardly a surprise, is it?
But this doesn’t change the FACTS.
Education down, Shockoe Stadium up.
Just a coincidence? That’s for you to decide, I just report the facts or in his case relate what others reported.
Since 2005, Governor Terry McAuliffe, Senator Tim Kaine, Senator Mark Warner, former Governor Bob McDonnell and Congressman Eric Cantor have come on board to openly back my analysis as to the vital importance in modernizing Richmond’s aging, dysfunctional school buildings.
Why? Because they know it is impossible to teach a true 21st century education in buildings constructed, on average, in 1955! Merely pouring hundreds of millions more dollars into patching them and repairing them becomes way too expensive plus YOU STILL HAVE THE DYSFUNCTIONAL STRUCTURE!
“We need a complete modernization plan,” admitted the new school chief in today’s paper.
He referred not only to the buildings, but to the whole K-12 educational system in Richmond.
Sadly, some parts of the RTD article suggest the new school chief and school board may still be making a fundamental mistake, built on a fundamental misconception, about the basic needs for the RPS system.
BUT THAT IS FOR ANOTHER COLUMN.
Today, let’s focus on a very basic equation that finally is coming to light and in that connection, let us thank the school board and school chief this morning:
SCHOOL FUNDING IS DOWN IN RELATIVE TERMS, BUT SHOCKOE STADIUM FUNDING IS UP.
The fallacy in the Jones approach is what I pointed out in 2005, you have to encourage the RPS system to cut back on wasteful spending in administration and other areas BY AGREEING TO REINVEST THOSE SAVINGS INTO IMPROVING THE SCHOOL SYSTEM.
Cutting wasteful spending ALONE merely makes things cheaper, not better.
WE NEED A PLAN TO MAKE EDUCATION BETTER FOR RICHMOND’S FAMILIES.
As Dr. Bedden concedes, we don’t have that plan yet.
I spent a month last year writing up a plan on how to get there for the school board, talked to most of their members, and had a majority in support of a very simple process to make it happen.
They said they all agreed.
BUT THEY DIDN’T DO IT.
The process to get the right modernization plan isn’t hard.
But it will take people willing to walk the walk, not just talk the talk at budget time.
Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR. His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity. Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.