Dozens of charter school proponents turned out to a workshop at the Richmond Auditorium Monday evening to claim their piece of the Richmond Promise, a 10-year program to provide $35 million in scholarships for high school graduates in Richmond.
“I have a feeling there may be one or two people here to talk about the issue of charter schools,” joked Richmond Vice Mayor Jael Myrick before the packed room. Myrick helped spearhead the program with city staff.
As the draft of the Richmond Promise program stands right now only students from traditional West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) schools are eligible for these scholarship funds. Local charter schools are also public schools, but they were not included for eligibility in the draft of the program.
Myrick was quick to emphasize that the current proposal is a draft, and that the meetings like the one held on Monday will be fundamental to the program’s development.
“We need to figure out how we can make [the Promise] workable financially for charter schools, without impacting the rest of the schools,” Myrick said.
Parents and students in attendance were more concerned with the guarantee of their share of the scholarship than the financial details of the program.
“Everyone here is breathing the same air,” said one mother. “Whatever school you are going to, this Richmond Promise is meant for everyone going to school in Richmond. Otherwise, it’s not a promise; it’s part of a promise.”
Mindy Pines, a local community member, disagreed with this notion. “If there were unlimited funds, then I think all Richmond students should be eligible,” Pines said. “However, there are not infinite funds. I like the idea of a ranking system to give public school students first crack at it, because charter school students are already creamed.”
Many in the audience retorted at Pines’ last statement, and several students at local charter schools attested that they would not have the means to go to college without funds from the program.
The $35 million Richmond Promise program is part of a $90 million community benefits agreement with Chevron as part of the upcoming modernization project at its Richmond refinery. The program is scheduled to begin with the graduating class of 2016.
Monday’s workshop gave community members a chance to tell city staff their priorities in the Promise program before City Council takes up the issue in July. Another meeting is scheduled for June 18th at DeJean Middle School, 3400 Macdonald Ave, between 6 - 8 pm.
Here are four links to home videos of the meeting: