RICHMOND, Va. -- The union representing teachers for Richmond Public Schools announced its support for Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney's proposed 2020 budget on Wednesday.
The president of the Richmond Education Association, A. Ramon Moore, said his members voted to publicly support the deal because it moves the school system in the right direction.
“Teachers just want to come to work. Work. Receive equitable pay and to have beautiful buildings and resources for Richmond's finest,” said Moore. “We are just hoping and we know that through the elected officials that again they will do what's right.”
The mayor’s budget proposal would fully fund the school system by creating a new 50-cent per pack tax on cigarettes and raising the real estate tax by nine cents to $1.29 for every $100 of assessed value, the rate it was in 2006.
“We cannot fund public education on GoFundMes and fairy dust. We need investment, “said Stoney at the announcement. He defended the real estate tax increase when questioned whether it could drive people, teachers included, out of the city. “Taxes are not driving residents out of the city. It’s the public schools that are driving people out of the city.”
School Superintendent Jason Kamras said the funding is needed to bring equity to the system. He drew parallels to the college admissions scandal, where parents allegedly paid bribes to get their children into highly-sought after colleges and universities.
“If you have money, life is different than if you don’t,” said Kamras, who added such inequity exists at the K-12 level. “If you have money, you get to pick the school you go to , because you get to pick where you live and if you don’t, you get what you get.”
But supporters of the proposal will have to convince city council to go along with the plan, with the majority of council opposed.
2nd District Councilmember Kim Gray is one of the opponents and said she is worried about the impact all the tax increases would have on some residents.
“They are struggling today. Adding to that injury would be unacceptable for me.” said Gray, who added she is looking for cuts to make to the proposed budget. “I’ve requested org charts for the organizations. I’ve requested their budgets. I want to know what their vacancy looks like. I want to know what their overtime is."
When asked about opposition to his budget, the mayor said he welcomes alternative plans but added the he seen none so far.