Thursday, February 19, 2009

School In Crisis – Grasping The Gravity – Politics

Is it good politics or is Councilman Court Rosen sincere in his $7 million offer to the school system? No matter how loud the warning from the City Manager and Director of Finance Rosen demands that the City bleed. It certainly has pulled the heart strings of Councilwoman Anita Price and opened the eyes of the Mayor (to the politics of it anyway) – the Roanoke Times Editorial board has also stirred up the citizenry. No matter that $7 million out the city’s coffers will bring major harm to the city. By Rosen bringing $7 million before the public puts all of Council in a precarious political position. It’s not nice to take advantage of an emotional citizenry while harboring political motives.
At Wednesday’s RCPS public input meeting some were sympathetic but many had a bone to pick with the plans to close schools.
Clapping and cheering followed comments by Lavita Washingon who fought the repurposing of Forest Park Elementary. She said of Woodrow Wilson – the gifted programs were taken away and school building conditions were a result of years of neglect.
Several asked parents to call City Council members and urge them to make up the funding shortfall. Others pointed to the School Board and Administration wanting to close Ruffner ever since the new William Fleming HS began construction. One parent said her child asked “where does the lottery money go” as she watched people buy $10 -20$ – $100 worth of tickets. Strong emotions rang out – “teachers are people” not numbers said one parent referring to the statistics on the slide presentation.
The Forest Park Academy cost $1 million said another parent who noted the special attention the students get at the Academy versus those students who labor without assistance in the other schools.
Mostly they wanted to see Roanoke City Council find at least the $7 million that Councilman Court Rosen, Anita Price, and Mayor Bowers raised their hands to support. Councilman Alvin Nash, David Trinkle, Gwen Mason, and Vice-Mayor Sherman Lea raised their hand for $3 million. This was not a vote but direction for the City Manager, the Director of Finance, and the Director of Management and Budget to follow as they put more City cuts on the table for Council’s consideration.
Tough decisions – take the money for schools from Public Safety, out of the Budget Stabilization Reserve (Rainy Day) Fund, or from projects. It is hard to explain to passionate citizens the intricacies of Roanoke City’s budget. Take for example the fact that you can’t take funds from a project that has had General Obligation bonds issued for it. You can’t use debt issued for one project and use it for something else. You could tell by the comments this evening that the citizenry does not have a grasp of how budget’s work – really does anyone understand it completely except for the Director of Finance? Ann Shawver must be feeling pressure and frustration as she tries to explain the complexities, pitfalls, and outright disaster that could befall the city should some of these wishes be granted. COUNCIL SHOULD LISTEN TO SHAWVER – THEY HAVE IGNORED HER WARNINGS SO FAR. CITIZENS SHOULD ALL ATTEND THE TWO UPCOMING BUDGET LESSONS – March 3rd, 6:30 PM at VWCC and March 12th, 6:30 PM at the Civic Center..

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Education, Roanoke City Public Schools

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