‘Fund our Future’

By George Copeland Jr. | 12/13/2018, 6 a.m.
Ty Logan has his eyes set on a bright future and wants the State of Virginia to properly support it. ...
Richmond schools Superintendent Jason Kamras addresses the marchers from the steps of the State Capitol last Saturday. Among those on the podium with him are, from left, Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney, who led the March for More effort, 4th District Congressman A. Donald McEachin and Shadae Thomas Harris, chief engagement officer for Richmond Public Schools. Photo by Regina H. Boone

Ty Logan has his eyes set on a bright future and wants the State of Virginia to properly support it.

“When I grow up, I want to be a doctor. I want to be a lawyer. I want to be an astronaut,” the junior at Richmond Community High School said. “I want more investing into our education right now. I want the state to care about our learning, not test scores.”

The call for more state funding for Richmond Public Schools and public school systems around the state was championed by hundreds of students, parents, elected officials and supporters last Saturday as they gathered at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in the East End and marched to the State Capitol in Downtown.

The “March for More,” as the event was called, is the first of several planned to draw attention to the current level of financial support for K-12 education and to request that more money be ponied up for schools by the Virginia General Assembly, which convenes in January.

The rally at the Mosby Street school had the same sense of urgency as the larger Richmond March For Our Lives rally last spring against gun violence following the school massacre in Parkland, Fla. That rally also stepped off from Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, with marchers making the 1.2 mile trek to the State Capitol.

“I have lost multiple students to gun violence, including one last weekend,” RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras said, “and yet I have a social worker that has 1,000 students on her caseload.”

Mr. Kamras was joined Saturday by other high-profile supporters, including Richmond Mayor Levar M. Stoney, members of the Richmond, Henrico and Lynchburg school boards and 4th District Congressman A. Donald McEachin, with 7th District Congresswoman-elect Abigail Spanberger sending her regards from Washington.

“We cannot expect our children to learn and lead when they are forced to study in buildings that are dilapidated and obsolete,” Mr. McEachin said, pledging to advocate for more funding on the state and federal levels.

Mr. Kamras noted that a 9 percent decrease in public education funding statewide since 2008 has come as Virginia’s student population has grown by 5 percent, leaving schools underfunded and teachers and staff overwhelmed in a state that ranks 33rd nationally in teacher pay.

“We’re closing out the second decade of the 21st century, and we’re running our schools on tech from the end of the 20th century. Is that right?” Mr. Kamras asked the rally participants.

“No!” came the booming answer from the crowd.

“I want you to be in their face each and every day when the General Assembly is there,” Mayor Stoney told the crowd as the trek to the Capitol was about to begin. “I want them to hear Virginia! I want them to hear Richmond!”

The crowd, led to Capitol Square by the RPS All City Band, was energized and motivated even in the chilly December air. People carried a wide variety of signs: “Commit to Kids,” “Money for Education, Not a Coliseum,” “Boost the Budget,” “Fund Our Future” and “Knowledge is Power.”