Charlottesville City Councilors Want More Transparency from Schools

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City Councilors discussing school funding City Councilors discussing school funding

Some Charlottesville City Councilors are asking for more transparency to see how millions of dollars will be spent on city schools.

Each year, City Council essentially writes a blank check to the school board without seeing how that money will get spent.

Councilors aren't necessarily asking for help in the process this year, but they want people on the outside and in low-wealth communities to weigh in on what needs to be done differently.

Charlottesville City Councilors are asking questions about how the city's school division spends its money every year. On Wednesday, March 7, councilors debated the issue during a work session for the upcoming budget.

"I would like to see more equity-based programs,” says Mayor Nikuyah Walker.

Walker has reservations about the school division's $54 million in the proposed budget, which is a $2.7 million increase from last year.

“There’s a significant number in our community that is not doing well in our current school system, so I'm asking for us to see that represented in the work that they are doing and that they are asking for the money for,” says Walker.

Councilor Kathy Galvin shares this desire for greater transparency from the schools.

“There should be a partnership between local government and schools - that the opportunity gaps in the neighborhoods need to be closed as much as the achievement gaps in the classroom,” says Galvin.

City Council does not have a say in how school leaders spend the money, but councilors discussed a potential solution to that at Wednesday night’s meeting.

"Maybe to have teachers and students decide where funding should be going and not just a top-down,” says Walker.

Walker says one of the issues that stands out to her is a school-to-prison pipeline in the city.

“I'm interested in us being able to tell a different story,” says Walker. “I know there are some great teachers, great administrators, so it’s not that, but do we have the system in place where things can truly change?”

Teachers and staff are slated for a 3 percent raise in the proposed budget for 2019.

“Eighty percent of our full-time employees don't live in the city of Charlottesville,” says Galvin.

Galvin says that to make Charlottesville truly livable, the city could provide a workforce housing program.

“I don’t know what that costs, but I do think we need to be also aggressive about that,” says Galvin.

City schools could also get an additional $350,000 from the city if they lose funds from state budget cuts.

The next budget work session is set for Thursday, March 15, from 5-7 p.m. inside CitySpace.

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