SCHOOLS

Mayor Levar Stoney talks to students at Armstrong High.

The education compact Levar Stoney proposed for the Richmond school system and the city administration seemed to receive more attention than it merited, even in its original form. It laid out a series of underwhelming goals, from “institutionalize communication between administrative bodies” to “promote parent engagement and meet needs of parents” to “articulate shared plan for investment in children.” The toothiest section, concerning academic achievement, called for the schools to do nothing more than meet existing Virginia benchmarks.

Now even those teeth have been pulled.

After inexplicable and sometimes goofy pushback from a variety of sources, the administration has dropped any reference to improving academics. Now, the mayor says, his compact is just “a framework. There’s no metrics here. No measurements here. All it is is a framework.”

Well, that should fix everything.

Opponents of the compact have fretted that approving it before installing a new superintendent would amount to putting the cart before the horse. But the compact contained nothing a new superintendent should not be on board with in the first place.

Some skeptics of the compact also worried that it was a sneaky, back-door way to encourage charter schools, privatization, and similar tools of the devil (which is largely how they’re seen by the education establishment). This is laughable. Virginia in general, and Richmond in particular, are temperamentally, ideologically — and apparently irreversibly — hostile to any form of school choice. And Stoney, a Democrat and former chief of staff to Gov. Terry McAuliffe, is the unlikeliest vehicle to introduce such changes this side of the National Education Association.

Even some members of the School Board seem resistant to the mayor’s compact. Linda Owens, of the 9th District, didn’t like the academic goals, for instance. She also notes that the city has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the state.

But that memorandum lacks teeth as well. It demands little of the Richmond school system except to “meet every two months with the Office of School Improvement.” And to “provide ... documentation on planned use of funds.” And to “consult with” state officials. And to approve and submit a “correctional plan.”

And what happens if the school system fails to meet the goals of such a correctional plan, assuming for the sake of argument that the correctional plan includes any measurable goals?

Nothing. No consequences at all — except for continued meetings. (The memorandum does mention statutory authority to withhold “at-risk add-on funds,” but never stipulates that such withholding could take place.)

In short, neither the mayor’s new education compact nor the memorandum of understanding with the state contain any goals for improving academic achievement, or any requirement that the schools actually reach such goals. But, as one acerbic critic of city schools has noted, there will be plenty of “busywork” for the various levels of bureaucracy. That’s great for the employment prospects of central-office staff. It doesn’t look so hot for children stuck in the city’s education ghettos.

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