Charter school community rallies for inclusion in scholarship program
on October 15, 2015
About a dozen elementary-age children chanted in union Wednesday afternoon at the corner of Park Place and Washington Avenue in Point Richmond, within shouting distance of Mayor Tom Butt’s office.
And shout they did.
“We want to go to college! Help us make our dreams come true!” they called out.
Parents, students and teachers from Richmond-area charter schools are demanding that the mayor and other councilmembers extend eligibility for a $35 million college scholarship program to charter school students as well as public school students.
Brian Buttacavoli, an English and journalism teacher at Making Waves Academy, said opportunities like the scholarship, known as the “Richmond Promise,” should be open to all students in Richmond.
“Why should my students be penalized just because they are seeking different educational opportunities from different public schools?” Buttacavoli said. “My students in every way, shape and form are community members of Richmond.”
City council approved an outline for the Richmond Promise on September 29. They will take up the issues of who is eligible and how much money college-going kids would expect to receive within the next two months, the mayor’s office said. The program is financed by a grant from Chevron Corp.
Parents, students and teachers from Richmond-area charter schools have been vocalizing their concerns over the last few months. Initial discussions in the spring about the scholarship program did not make it clear if students attending charter schools will be included alongside their peers attending public schools in West Contra Costa County.
At Wednesday’s protest, Alondra Reyes, a 12th grader at Leadership Public Schools, carried a large batch of blue and red balloons. Each balloon represented 10 kids who would be excluded from the Richmond Promise if charter school students were not eligible.
Mayor Butt released a statement in response to Wednesday afternoon’s demonstration saying he is open to including Richmond students attending charter schools into Richmond Promise. However, he said he does not support launching it as a pilot program at just one high school as some other councilmembers do.
“That, I will not support because I believe that is not the intent of [the] Promise Program and is counter to our efforts to create a college‐going community,” Butt said. “Like you, I believe that every student should have the opportunity to access higher education.”
Next week, the city manager’s office is scheduled to meet with charter and private school administrators to discuss their concerns and gather necessary data from the schools to create a final plan for the Richmond Promise.
For Armando Garibay, the scholarship would be an opportunity to help his children, Melissa and Armando Jr., go to college and establish a good career. “I want better lives for my kids,” he said.
Patricia Ornelas, a 12th grader at Making Waves Academy, said she should not be denied this opportunity just because she attends a charter school.
“I live in Richmond,” she said, addressing the crowd. “I have led two community projects to make this place better and I hope it contributes to my success just as I hope to contribute to it.”
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The agreement signed between Chevron and the City of Richmond requires Chevron to give $90 million to the City in exchange for the City Council agreeing to their permit request for their billion dollar modernization. This is all spread out over a ten year period.
Part of that agreement calls for $35 million to go towards the Richmond Promise—a scholarship program geared towards helping to make college an easier reality for Richmond students.
The specific language that is the bone of contention right now reads as follows:
This program will be limited to students who live in Richmond and graduate from public high school in the West Contra Costa Unified School District.
If you look at this carefully you’ll see, as I immediately saw, that this would exclude private schools such as Salesians. It might also exclude most charter schools.
To help explain, though, the state law says that charter schools are public schools so I could quickly see that if the City Council were to exclude charter schools they would immediately be sued.
Keep in mind that the requirement is for students to live in Richmond. They don’t have to attend schools in Richmond. Half of El Cerrito HS students live in Richmond. More than half of Richmond HS students live outside of Richmond. We have Richmond students who attend Middle College HS as well as Pinole Valley HS.
Leadership charter school was issued their charter through the District and they are included on the District’s web site. With this current language, would they be included or excluded?
The big question is whether the City should reopen negotiations with Chevron to amend the language to include ALL students who live in Richmond.
The rationale for this mitigation agreement is that it’s to compensate the young people of Richmond who have to breath the “bad” air coming from the refinery. The air we breath isn’t determined by which school we attend.
Some people argue that the people living in the unincorporated North Richmond should be included but they don’t live in Richmond. The same argument is made about the kids living in San Pablo. The response to that one, though, is when can we expect the good people of San Pablo to share their casino revenue with the people of Richmond? Every city has to draw the line somewhere and they often do.
And lastly, some will argue that private school students should be excluded because if their parents can afford to send them to a private school then they can afford to send them to college, too.
If this were Blackhawk, Los Altos or Marin County I might agree but Salesians is not The Branson School or Head Royce ($37,000 per year). A great many of the Salesians kids are scholarships kids and they’re just as rich and just as poor as we all are.
[…] As with previous council meetings involving the Richmond Promise, parents, students and teachers from Richmond-area charter schools packed the room Tuesday night. They expected councilmembers to finally reach a decision about including charter school students. […]
[…] The question of whether to include students attending charter schools and private schools in the program has been a key point of contention over the past few months. Parents, students and teachers from Richmond-area charter schools rallied to implore councilmembers to include charter school students. […]