Nat Bates: On the Richmond Promise Scholarship and Charter Schools


Below is an email conversation between Richmond Councilmember Nat Bates and Richmond resident Dr. Molly Moloney discussing the exclusion of local charter schools from the Richmond Promise program. A meeting about the Richmond Promise is being held at the Richmond Auditorium, 403 Civic Center Plaza, from 6-8pm this evening.

Nat Bates: 6/7/15, 10:29am
Dear Dr. Moloney,

Thanks very much for your very thoughtful and insightful email regarding the Chevron mitigation Richmond Promise Scholarship 35 Million Dollars Program.

When the council voted to approve the Chevron Modernization Project last year, (Bates, Booze, Butt, Myrick & Rogers voting yes with Beckles and McLaughlin voting no), my vote regarding the mitigation funds was predicated upon all qualified high school graduating students being eligible for funding.

Mayor Tom Butt, Vice Mayor Jael Myrick and Shasa Curl, representing city manager, Bill Lindsay took it upon themselves to hand pick certain members from the community along with themselves to draft a 69 page recommended course of action. This committee was not approved by the council nor were other council members or the public requested to provide input prior to the drafted proposal. The council and public only learned of the proposed guidelines through a presentation a few weeks ago. When questioned as to where was the community input, the answer was "we will have public input later".  As a result of inquiries from council members and a few from the public, two public meetings have been scheduled for Monday, June 8 at the Richmond Auditorium and Thursday, June 18 at DeJean Middle School with both events being held from 6 to 8 PM.

As an elected official and professional, if one is serious about community involvement, my experience has been to gather pertinent information through a community meeting prior to a draft being presented rather than afterwards. In doing so, one hopefully would come forward with a consensus with less opposition because most viewpoints would have been discussed in detail. Six to eight members of a committee regardless of how intelligent they may or may not be, can not speak for a community of 107,000 people. Equally important, not one high school graduating student, those mostly affected by the program were included in the proposed draft to my knowledge.

My recent discussions with Chevron's leadership indicate that at no time have they indicated a desire to exclude any graduating student from the program. This decision was made by the mayor, vice mayor and selected WCCUSD school board representatives on the committee. Interesting, although charter schools represent a large population in Richmond, not one of their representative were included on the committee. Furthermore, not only were charter schools students excluded, so were labor unions trade schools. We know that not every graduating student will attend college for various reasons but those not attending college can learn a craft or trade sponsored by labor unions that will sustain them in life. Is it not the purpose of the program to assist graduating students in becoming successful in life, be it as a college graduate or productive citizen in our community?

Finally, it is embarrassing and most interesting that a gift of 35 Million Dollars Scholarship Fund from Chevron would cause such division in our community. It is not tax payers monies, yet some treat it as if it is their personal funds which reminds me of a rich uncle or aunt who dies. Although they have a will and living trust, relatives comes from out of nowhere trying to get something for nothing.

As I indicated in my earlier statement, my vote to approve the Chevron Mitigation Project was and continue to be predicated on ALL of Richmond's graduating students being treated fairly and equal regardless what school they attended. To that end, I continue to stand firmly committed without equivocation and will vote for the Richmond Promise Scholarship program only if it includes all of Richmond's graduating students.

Nat Bates

Dr. Molly Maloney: 6/6/15, 8:46pm
Dear Councilmember Bates,

I am writing to express my concern about the recent news that the exciting Richmond Promise program will exclude a sizable portion of Richmond public school students-- namely those that attend public charter schools.

I know that you were not one of the councilmembers involved in drafting this divisive decision.  So, I hope that when and if this comes before the council you can raise objections to this exclusion of so many deserving Richmond students.

I am a Richmond resident.  I am a teacher at Richmond College Prep Elementary (RCP).  And my own children attend another public charter school in Richmond, Caliber Beta Academy. It saddens me to think that my students, my children, and their classmates will all be treated as second-class citizens of Richmond and not given the same amazing privilege as other Richmond students.

Most of the children in both of these schools come from low income families, often in some of the most troubled neighborhoods in our city, often in families and lives with a great deal of instability.  Almost all of the children are people of color, many of whom are English Learners.  These kids have a lot stacked against them.  And yet, so many of these students have dreams and aspirations to go to college-- many of whom will be the first in their families to do so.

Some of these kids are so amazingly brilliant, creative, and hard-working.  I can't wait for the day when I start hearing about what colleges they are going to go to, although I know it's going to be a huge struggle for many of them.

When I read about the Richmond Promise program last year, I was excited to think about what a HUGE difference this would make in the lives of many of my students and their families.  When I read that this would be a program that would benefit all Richmond students who attend public school, it was clear to me that charter school students would qualify.  Afterall, charter schools are public schools.  To see this complete turn-around completely baffles me.

I know that some people don't like charter schools, and I understand some of their criticisms of charter schools from a public policy perspective.  And I can certainly understand why some people in the WCCUSD find charter schools to be a threat.  But I cannot understand in the slightest why anyone would want to punish the students of the charter schools over any of this.

I hope that everyone involves rethinks this plan and that Richmond Promise lives up to the promises I read about in the press last year-- that this would be for all Richmond students of public schools.

Dr. Molly Moloney

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