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‘Put our children first’ when it comes to education

4/12/2019, 6 a.m.
As a native of Prince Edward County, I think the number of folks using the Brown v. Board of Education ...

Last month, Mayor Levar M. Stoney pledged to make that investment when he proposed his budget that fully funds the Richmond schools’ financial needs. This proposal was carefully curated after the General Assembly’s inaction to address the institutional racism that is being perpetuated in our public schools.

Subsequently, I’ve witnessed many people say that they want to enrich the city’s infrastructure, enhance our schools and make Richmond a better place for all, but then they are adamantly against taking any of the necessary steps to accomplish those things. The proposed budget is not flawless, but instead of turning it down, we should work together over the coming weeks to perfect it for those who need it the most.

I cringe when I hear friends banter about moving to avoid the restoration of the real estate tax rates. I caution them, as I caution all, to remember that the folks who are truly marginalized don’t have that luxury.

Life is about choices. In 1959, the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors voted not to fund a desegregated public-school system. Public schools were closed for five years. Families with money, power and privilege sent their kids to private schools. Black and poor students were left to figure it out.

Some families lied about their addresses in order to send kids to neighboring districts. Some families sent their children across the country to be educated, sometimes living with complete strangers. Some kids did not receive an education during the entire period of the shut down, and some potential students were never educated as a result of the school closing.

Let’s make the right choice, Richmond. Put our children first. That’s why I support the cigarette tax and restoring the city’s pre-recession real estate tax rates. This budget is a big step to making Richmond a more inclusive place for all.

When considering our students and the state of our school systems, I often think of this quote from Frederick Douglass: “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground … Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

Let his words guide you, too.

TAIKEIN M. COOPER

Richmond

The writer is executive director of Virginia Excels, a public education advocacy organization.