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Yes on Proposition A

10/19/2017, 6:42 p.m.

For decades, as our school buildings have grown older and begun to decay, we, the people, have had little say in whether city leaders should completely renovate them or replace them with modern structures.

Unlike the counties, which must get public approval for bond issues, we have relied on our City Council representatives to determine how much of a priority our school buildings are.

For the first time, we will an opportunity to register our opinion on the issue of school modernization when we cast our ballots on Election Day Tuesday, Nov. 7.

Exasperated residents, including members of the Richmond Crusade for Voters and the Sierra Club, have made it possible.

They followed the advice of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and took the matter into their own hands, instead of waiting for the mayor and council.

Led by a former Virginia Democratic Party official, Paul Goldman, those residents collected a record 15, 000 signatures from our citizens to put the issue on the ballot so that we could register our opinion as to whether the time for action has come.

The citizen initiative will be listed as Proposition A. It is titled “Section 6.15 – Fulfilling the Promise of Equal Educational Opportunities.” It will be found on the flip side of the one-page ballot that voters will receive at the polls.

Like us, if you are indignant about falling ceiling tiles, moldy classrooms and other problems in the buildings where we hope and expect our children will learn, this is an unprecedented opportunity to speak out.

The premise is simple: The proposal calls on Mayor Levar Stoney to consult with School Board and City Council and then to create a fully-funded plan to modernize all of the school buildings to present to the council for consideration or to tell us why he cannot do so.

That’s all. It does not obligate the council to carry out the plan. But if we all say we want this, we are giving the mayor and the council a mandate to make this a priority — and a mandate to act is a powerful tool. Here’s the bottom line: You can’t solve a problem without a plan to solve the problem, and that is what Proposition A proposes.

The School Board has presented numerous plans to the council, but all essentially were wish lists because only the City Council can provide the funding, and it has not.

The reality is that a large majority of our buildings are obsolete. Since 1997, we have only improved or replaced about 10 school buildings, leaving at least 34 that are past their useful life, which is about 40 years. A state study a few years ago indicated that Richmond had one of the largest collections of outdated buildings in Virginia.

And if nothing is done, our children will be attending these same buildings for years to come.

In 1955, in the Brown v. Board of Education II decision that followed the famed 1954 Brown I decision outlawing government-enforced racial segregation of schools, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the quality school buildings was one element of ensuring the opportunity for equal education.