The enemy of good policy is perfect policy. While the Mayor’s meal tax increase is by no means a perfect solution, we believe that it is a significant emergency step in an effort to improve Richmond Public Schools. Unfortunately, past administrations at the city, regional, and state level have not taken the necessary steps to prioritize educational experiences of students in Richmond. Therefore, we now find ourselves in a difficult situation. We acknowledge how regrettable it is that we, as a community, even have to engage in debate over how to address this obstacle.
We have confirmation from Mayor Stoney’s team that, although cities in Virginia cannot have “lockboxes” to funds, his proposal dedicates 100% of the funding from the proposed meals tax to school facilities. In moving forward, our city leaders must be held accountable for their words on this important issue of the use of taxpayer money. And we intend to do just that. To reiterate, we must hold our leaders accountable for their promises.
Given the history and social context of Richmond, we believe that it is up to those with means in the community to take ownership in addressing issues related to social and educational equity. We are hopeful and optimistic that the people of Richmond and its surrounding areas will continue to support our city’s vibrant and exciting restaurants, especially now that dining will contribute to the educational opportunities of Richmond’s children.
Mayor Stoney’s meals tax is not the end-all-be-all solution to fix the institutionalized, systemic racism that has marginalized people of color in Richmond since this country was founded. However, it is the next best option to doing nothing. We cannot wait another day, another year, another five years, to fix our schools. If there are any other proposals on the table in regards to school funding, we are open to engaging in open dialogue and supporting the proposal we believe best meets the needs of the community. Certainly, in the recent election, numbers of city council candidates emphasized their determination, if elected, to find a school funding solution. The election, however, is now concluded, and there are currently only two options on the table: the meals tax, or wait another five years for school funding.
Looking forward, we are energized by the opportunity to partner with the Mayor’s team in advocating for the students of Richmond at the General Assembly. As public education advocates, we remain committed to finding solutions to school funding challenges. Richmond Teachers for Social Justice supports the proposed meals tax not because it is the best solution, but because it is a crucial next step in the process of creating a better future for our community. Therefore, we encourage our city council members to vote for the meals tax on Monday.