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Yes on Proposition A

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

Today, our schools, with their ignored maintenance, appear to violate that decision and create monuments to segregation more shameful than even the Confederate statues that decorate some our streets and are the subject of a current uproar.

We have heard plenty of objections, such as this proposal would tie the mayor’s hands or block him from proposing tax increases to finance what could be an expensive program for change. Some estimates put the cost of modernizing the school at $500 million or more.

But that is not the case. The mayor must show us there is no other way to get the job done short of raising taxes. The building program would take time, and Richmond would not need to borrow all the money at once. Best estimates suggest our city might have to pay 2 cents to 5 cents of each dollar of the tax revenue the city collects to cover the annual debt service.

And if a tax increase is needed, then at least we would all know that our leaders have done their level best before they come back to us for more money. Still, we need a good plan in place first, and focusing on taxes before that happens could mean more years of failure to get the buildings modernized.

Some have said this proposition interferes with the authority of the School Board as it vests the mayor with authority to create a fully-funded plan. But the mayor currently has the authority to create such a plan under state law and the City Charter.

Some object to this plan because it does not deal with the academic shortcomings in our public schools or does not ensure Richmond will get more state funding for school operations.

Certainly, new school buildings do not guarantee a quality education. The data on student educational achievement at our newest high school and our newest middle school bear that out.

But we definitely cannot provide a 21st century education in buildings that were designed for learning in the 1950s, a truism supported by various academic studies. And it somehow seems wrong to halt any progress until we address all educational challenges.

Our elected officials, including Mayor Stoney, who calls himself the “education mayor,” and most of our council members promised last year during their campaigns that school modernization would be a top priority if they were elected.

So far, it seems the issue has remained on the back burner.

This advisory referendum— which would still need approval of the General Assembly and so far only one member of the Richmond delegation, Republican Delegate Manoli Loupassi, has embraced it — might not be perfect.

But it would create a transparent, accountable process demanding a solution to what we all know is a real problem for our city.

That is why we support this initiative and urge you to do so on Election Day.