After the champion for Richmond’s schools modernization referendum lost his bid for re-election, another state lawmaker is stepping forward to carry it through the General Assembly.
Sen. Glen H. Sturtevant Jr., R-Richmond, said Wednesday that he has requested a bill be drafted in the Virginia Senate that would open up Richmond’s city charter to require the mayor to present a plan to the City Council within six months to improve Richmond Public Schools facilities without raising taxes.
Council members would have to vote on the plan within 90 days after it is presented. The alternative is for Mayor Levar Stoney to say that such a plan can’t be done.
In last week’s referendum, city voters overwhelmingly approved the initiative with 85 percent of the vote, despite Stoney’s opposition.
“It’s a positive indicator and not unexpected that Richmond residents made modernizing our schools a priority,” said Sturtevant, a former Richmond School Board member.
The ballot measure was crafted by longtime Democratic strategist Paul Goldman, who touted the initiative along with Del. G. Manoli Loupassi, R-Richmond, in the weeks leading up to Election Day. Loupassi, a former City Council member, lost to Democratic challenger Dawn M. Adams.
Goldman and Loupassi praised the bipartisan nature of the referendum’s support. With Sturtevant, the referendum still has bipartisan support.
“A fully funded plan is what the people want,” Goldman said Wednesday. “This was their chance to voice it.”
Richmond schools continue to face facilities problems because of years of deferred maintenance, where improvements were put off in order to save money at the time.
Stoney, a Democrat, doesn’t think it’s necessary to change the charter to fix the school’s facilities issues and “does not think that we need the General Assembly to tell us how to do it,” said Jim Nolan, the mayor’s spokesman.
“Rather, it is our position that all options should be on the table when it comes to our schools,” Nolan said. “We shouldn’t have to rob Peter to pay Paul, or wait to declare ‘failure’ before the city can consider revenue options.”
Nolan added that the mayor’s office is focused on working with the Education Compact, a joint effort by the School Board and the City Council, to create and fund a facilities plan.
Members of the compact have yet to be chosen as the School Board is behind on its selection process, which was originally drafted for October. Now the board hopes to have compact members chosen by the end of the calendar year.
The schools administration is in the midst of creating a plan. Interim Superintendent Tommy Kranz presented an overview of the plan — enrollment numbers and next steps — to the School Board last week. Options for a facilities plan will be shared at next week’s board meeting.
“The intended purpose of the referendum will certainly be a benefit to our schools,” Kranz said in a statement.
Sturtevant said he’s optimistic that a companion bill will be drafted in the House of Delegates.
Adams did not return a request for comment Wednesday.
The legislation would have to pass through both chambers of the General Assembly and be signed by the governor before the timeline for the mayor’s plan starts.