The Richmond City Council made strides Tuesday night in hammering out key policy details of the Richmond Promise Program, the $35 million scholarship program that aims to create greater opportunity and a college going culture among the City’s students.
Twelve specific policy proposals were reviewed by the Council, which then cast votes in a straw poll to direct City Staff to revise the final draft of the Richmond Promise Strategic Action Plan accordingly. Council will review the final proposal in October, where these directives, and others, will be reviewed and the program finalized.
The subject matter of the proposals varied from ways in which to determine student eligibility, to formalizing the organizational structure of the program.
Of the former set of proposals, the City Council reviewed a number of suggestions to ferret out the specifics of how to ensure that students within Richmond specifically are the beneficiaries of the program. To do this, the proposed rules will require that residency be established and the student be enrolled and attending class within the first week of the school year.
Additionally, the Council members voted in their support of a proposal which recommends that the percentage of Richmond Promise scholarship funds students are entitled to correlates to each year they have been in attendance at Richmond schools. For each year from kindergarten through eighth grade, students will be eligible for 10 percent of their Promise funds. High school years are lumped together in a final 10 percent.
Student attendance is also tied to their access to Promise Funds. To be eligible, the Council directed staff that students must miss no more than 10 percent of school days in a given year, with an exception for students who are unable to attend due to hospitalization. Additionally, students must provide proof of graduation from high school or an equivalent program in order to receive funds from the scholarship.
Council directed staff to include the recommendation that there not be a GPA requirement for the students to apply to the Promise Program, though they must already be accepted into a college or university to be eligible.
In order to ensure that students have the proper support at their college or university, Council supported a proposal that requires recipients of the Promise scholarship to participate in at least one year of an academic and social support program. Before they go off to college, too, Council determined that students must be engaged in an extracurricular or college readiness program in high school.
There was also the issue of a time limit for students to apply to the program. After some back and forth about age limits, the Council unanimously voted to cap eligibility for the Richmond Promise at 21, with an exception for returning military personnel.
The final group of recommendations pertained to more administrative aspects of the Promise Program. The Council directed staff to negotiate with Chevron to establish an administrative board for the Promise Program, which will be a part of the required 501c3 nonprofit. The Council recommended that the five board seats of the nonprofit will have representatives from the City of Richmond, Chevron, and the business, education, and philanthropic sectors. The nonprofit’s advisory board was decided to have nine members consisting of local community stakeholders, including representatives from local nonprofits, the California State University system, and local schools.
Council recommended that this advisory board will be the governing body that hears petitions to issues around the scholarship, and that all eligible seniors from Richmond will be included in the launch of the Promise Program.
City Council covered many technical ins and outs of the $35 million Richmond Promise Scholarship program, which comes from the City’s Community Benefits Agreement with Chevron as part of the refinery’s modernization project —but these key recommendations have yet to be finalized.
In October, the City Council will face another batch of decisions which will determine the structure of the Richmond Promise Program, including whether to include Richmond students from charter public schools and private schools in the Program and how much students will be eligible to receive. Additionally, the Council is scheduled to approve the final Richmond Promise Strategic Action Plan, which will bring up these issues again.