On the Proposed RPS Budget for FY25

From the REA Board of Directors:

On January 22, Superintendent Jason Kamras presented his FY25 budget to the School Board for its first review. Among the proposed items in the budget are 3% raises for nearly all staff, 1.17% step increases, continued funding for the Richmond Virtual Academy, and much needed facilities maintenance. Additionally, any employee groups that have yet to have their salary decompressed would see that decompression next year. That means employees would jump to the step on the salary scale that accurately reflects their years of experience, and folks that started on a higher step would see a different adjustment or smaller increase for the next few years while their step was right sized to match years of experience. 

While these raises and decompression are much needed, it is important to note that several bargaining units, including Office Associates and Central Office staff, are still in negotiations, and no agreement has been reached. REA calls on the Richmond School Board to fully fund all collective bargaining agreements for all units once negotiations are finished. In particular, the Superintendent’s proposed budget does not include a raise for Central Office staff. Despite the misnomer label of “Central Office” staff, this group of employees includes our tech department, executive office associates, family liaisons, ASL interpreters, and so many other workers that keep our district running. In particular, our RPS family liaisons do the work of what constitutes two different roles in Henrico County, and Henrico advertises a starting salary that is $20,000 more than Richmond’s. Additionally, American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters previously negotiated their contracts with the licensed personnel back in 2022. At that time they had been on continuing contracts and were on the teacher payscale. RPS has since claimed that ASL interpreters were placed on continuing contracts for the past approximately 22 years in error as they do not require a VDOE license, and are therefore not licensed personnel, but instead fall in the Support Staff Professionals unit and must negotiate with the Central Office Staff. ASL interpreters are a hard to staff position whose services  are critical to student IEP compliance. It is imperative that RPS ASL interpreters receive the same compensation and working conditions that they agreed to when they were listed as licensed personnel. 

After over six months of organizing and advocacy around the unsafe and unhealthy building conditions in so many RPS schools, REA members, community members, and RPS families are beginning to see the fruits of that labor. The proposed budget contains over $7 million more in Capital Improvement Plan funds than last year, over $9 million for roof repairs alone, over three times as much funding for HVAC as last year, and necessary investments in fire safety. These facilities needed these repairs last year and in many years prior; and the new proposed funding is the result of REA members, RPS families, and Richmond community members demanding the type of school environments our students deserve. 

As the RPS administration has stated, the final General Assembly budget is likely to be much more favorable to public schools than the initial budget proposed by Governor Youngkin. At the same time, the Richmond Free Press reported the City of Richmond had a $38 million surplus on January 4, 2024. Five days later, on January 5, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported the City had a $12.6 million surplus. While the explanation for the discrepancies in these surplus totals remains to be seen, one thing is clear; the funding exists, if only we are brave enough to demand it. We urge City Council and the Mayor’s office to set a default minimum allocation of 25% of Richmond’s general fund for RPS’s operating budget. We hope the School Board will vigorously advocate for a needs-based budget alongside REA and the RPS community not only from the General Assembly, but from Richmond City.