Nat Bates: How Can We Make A Promise That Is Already Broken?


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The city of Richmond is looking at what some are calling a game-changer for our city: $35 million over 10 years toward college scholarships for local students called the Richmond Promise.

We know college graduates earn more than non-college graduates. An educated, financially-secure workforce can uplift the fabric of the community.

But I’m calling a foul on the game because in its current form the Richmond Promise does not include all Richmond students. Under this plan, our City Council will decide which students will receive Richmond Promise benefits. That’s up to $20,000 per child.

These students at select local schools may not include the city’s charter public schools, students on full scholarship at private schools or trade schools. These students might get nothing. Zero.

No matter where you or my City Council colleagues stand on the issue of public school is not the debate. We must remember all of our students are Richmond students first. Their families live here, pay taxes here, and breathe the same air.
Who are we to pick and choose?

My colleagues and I have made the best choices we can for our own children. I will not judge parents for choosing a school they believe will provide a better future for their child. And I won’t accept penalizing parents who make that choice.
For years, parents in our city have been exercising their freedom of choice and enrolling their child at schools other than their neighborhood school. In fact, according to data recently released by our school district, one in four Richmond high school students is enrolled at an alternative to their neighborhood school. That’s a lot of kids.

Truth be told, it’s no surprise that parents are hungry for choices. Take a look at the district’s recently published dashboard on student performance. Last year, fewer than 35 African American students at Richmond high schools were eligible to enroll in California’s public college system. Our children – and their parents – need more to be hopeful about. This is why parents are applying for scholarships to excellent parochial schools like Salesian, enrolling in charter public schools like Leadership Public Schools, and applying for district transfers as far away as Moraga.

I agree with the City when they say that writing checks for scholarships is the easy part. Getting students to a place where they perform is the real work. And to do this, we need to support all our Richmond students at the schools they choose. This plan is about inclusion and equity. It’s about making sure our kids can succeed in a college classroom and have financial support.
I implore the City not to favor one segment of local students over another because of politics. Why promise something to a few when you can promise a life-changing benefit to many? Richmond’s creed is “Pride and Purpose.” Let’s do something we can be proud of.

That means we don’t discriminate against some students because we don’t like the choices of their parents. I know from personal experiences as a youth to now being a senior citizen how hurtful it feels to be discriminated against, and I will not be a party to any such behavior toward our youth. Equal opportunity must be available to every Richmond child. They’re all our children.
That’s the Promise we made.

By: Councilmember Nat Bates.


Nathaniel "Nat" Bates is a former mayor and currently senior member on the Richmond City Council with 35 years as an elected official

Showing 8 reactions

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  • commented 2015-06-22 16:51:15 -0700
    In addition to the way it was stated I would also like to know how the original intent if this promise was written.
  • commented 2015-06-22 16:49:10 -0700
    I would also like to see the way the criteria is stated in the Richmond promise. where would I be able to get this information. My goal is to make a clear argument based on all possible information and comments. Thank you.
  • commented 2015-06-22 16:38:46 -0700
    I have a few questions directly related to Nate Bates Article .1) Is your primary argument that none of the charters with in the city limits are eligible? 2) Is it a realistic argument that students attending schools on another districts dime should still be eligible, even when the Richmond District loses money for every student that attends charters both in and out of the district and for students on district transfers? I understand your complaint within the district, but not for those who are outside the districts city limits. I am working on a paper for your article and have tried to find the dashboard you were referencing. I am trying to gather as much information on this subject as possible. any info would be helpful.
  • commented 2015-06-21 16:46:26 -0700
    Beg’n your pardon, Steve, but the $35m was raised as a community benefit of a directed contribution from one of the most capitalistic corporations in the world and was accomplished through the efforts of a great many people dedicated to supporting the youth of our community spearheaded by Vice Mayor Myrcik.

    How is supporting our youth through directed contributions more socialistic than paving streets with sales tax money.. or general fund money, for that matter?
  • commented 2015-06-21 12:00:24 -0700
    @i love Shady, correct $35 million will not complete the repair of our streets, but it will be a start. But I guess the proper “progressive” way to proceed is to kick that can further down the road and start another new “progressive” program committing more funds to a program we can not afford. Besides in a year or two the electorate will forget they passed a sales tax increase sales tax increase to fix the street, wink wink
  • commented 2015-06-20 23:11:10 -0700
    @ Steve Stewart $35 million is not even close to what would help fix our “streets” BUT WE start by making sure more of our children can go to college instead of ending up in jail.
  • commented 2015-06-20 07:21:44 -0700
    Well said, Councilman Bates. Thank you for your efforts toward inclusiveness at the recent council meeting. I’m hoping community members reviewing the currently proposed regulations for Richmond Promise will follow your lead. In my opinion the current proposal’s inclusion of s pending on “Future Centers” to create a “culture of achievement” at district high schools places unearned trust in the very system that is currently failing so many kids. It also replicates services already available through the East Bay College Fund. Investing the Richmond Promise Funds wisely – so that it generates funding for ALL of Richmond’s graduates for more than just 10 years – is just one of several alternatives for more prudent and equitable stewardship mentioned at last Tuesday’s meeting. I’m hoping your colleagues on the Council got the message that turning this into a debate about the merits of public vs charter vs private schools doesn’t do a thing for kids.
  • commented 2015-06-19 13:40:50 -0700
    We don’t have money to fix our streets but we can commit to $35 million for scholarships. Take car of the city’s needs before creating additional socialist, sorry “progressive” programs.
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