Crusade votes to back city charter change to fix school buildings

Jeremy Lazarus | 4/21/2017, 6:07 a.m.

If enough signatures are collected on petitions and certified within 60 days of the November election, the court then would order the initiative to be put on the ballot this fall.

If a majority of voters support the initiative, it would go to the General Assembly, which approves all charter changes.

If the change is approved by lawmakers and signed by the governor, then it would go into effect.

Mr. Goldman said even if approved, it is not clear that it would result in any action as the mayor could also tell City Council that he could not produce such a plan.

Still, Mr. Goldman said a positive vote on the initiative would send a signal to Virginia’s congressional delegation about the importance of the issue.

“My goal is to make sure that if Congress approves an infrastructure bill, that schools are included for the first time,” he said.

He said Virginia has ignored the problem of decaying schools, leaving it to cities and counties to somehow find the money. “And we can see how well that has worked,” he said.

He said if he were a student, he would sue the state for ignoring the requirements of the Brown decision and forcing students, particularly poor, minority students, to attend outmoded and decaying schools. He said educational studies show students who attend such schools do not get a quality education in violation of the landmark ruling.

For years, Mr. Goldman has campaigned to change the federal law governing historic tax credits so that such credits could be used to help finance school construction. Currently, public schools are barred from using such tax credits as a financial tool.

U.S. Rep. A. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, has joined other members of the Congressional Black Caucus to support a bill to change the law so public schools could benefit. The CBC recently gave a copy of the legislation to President Trump. It is the first time the proposal has reached the nation’s chief executive.

For Mr. Goldman, the charter initiative might not “solve all the problems” of education, but it would be “a start” at addressing the need to provide modern educational facilities for city children.