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Richmond Public Schools change admission policy in the name of equity

Posted at 6:42 AM, Sep 19, 2023

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Richmond School Board voted overwhelmingly Monday night in support of a new proposal that changes the admissions policy to the district’s specialty and Governor schools, giving a bigger advantage to students who are economically disadvantaged.

The vote comes on the heels of surveys and a published final report by The Equity Commission on Enrollment that found, “as a whole, RPS specialty schools do not reflect RPS’S Enrollment, largely because of inequitable admissions processes.”

At Appomattox Regional Governor’s School, of the 85 total RPS students, 9% are considered economically disadvantaged. At Maggie Walker Governor’s School, of the 205 RPS students, 8% are considered economically disadvantaged.

Data also shows disparities at Franklin Military Academy, Open High School, and Community High School.

To make specialty schools more reflective of the percentage of economically disadvantaged students in RPS, while maintaining their rigor, Superintendent Jason Kamras presented three options to Richmond School Board members last Monday night, but spoke in support of option three, which would guarantee at least 50% of available seats go to economically disadvantaged students.

The new policy will take the top three scoring applicants from each of the 8 RPS middle schools and the top three scoring applicants from private and homeschools.

The next offers will go to the next highest scoring economically disadvantaged students, until the total number of ED offers equal 50% of the seats. Any remaining seats will go to the next highest scoring applicants, regardless of school.

Richmond School Board Member Jonathan Young, the only board member to vote down the proposal, says the new policy is discriminatory in practice. He proposed a fourth option that would increase seats at all specialty schools for another 40 plus students. He is also proposed a Regional Middle School where RPS students were given more resources to prepare students for specialty schools.

Dozens of parents lined up to speak in favor and in opposition to the new policy. One family says they’ve secured legal counsel to challenge the legality of the board’s decision.

“After this proposal, this will disenfranchise the middle class and when the middle class is disenfranchised, they will not want to pay taxes to support something they will not be allowed to attend. This is the very definition of taxation without representation,” said attorney Charles Frankenoff.

Parent Andria Schraf says she believes the policy is fair and equitable for all students.

“You may hear tonight from speakers who feel the new proposal is unfair,” Schraf says. “In my view, the real unfairness is the decades long expulsion of gifted, intellectually curious, economically disadvantaged students from access to such an exceptional learning environment.”

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