A group of parents, grandparents and community members are teaming up to launch Charlottesville United for Public Education, a local lobby group focusing greater investment in the city school division.
Charlottesville United organizers say their top priority is funding the planned renovation and expansion of Buford Middle School and construction of a new early childhood center on the campus of Walker Upper Elementary.
Together, the two projects make up the multi-million reconfiguration project, which has been discussed for more than a decade.
So far, $75 million has been included in the city’s five-year capital improvement program as a placeholder for the project.
“Charlottesville United sees this as a chance for the city to make a seismic shift in public education for future generations,” organizers said in a news release Wednesday. “They are asking the Charlottesville City council to commit to funding the budgeted costs of the project and prioritize resources based on student needs.”
The coalition was announced ahead of a joint meeting between the school board and city council about the budget and reconfiguration.
“We came together out of a need to prioritize public education in Charlottesville,” said Shymora Cooper, parent and community advocate, in the news release. “We live and work in a wonderful and culturally diverse community, but there are inequities in our public school system that affect student success inside and outside the classroom. Strong and well-supported schools are essential to the lifelong success of children and youth.”
The announcement highlighted the demographics of the school system, including that 46% of students are considered economically disadvantaged.
“Decades of disinvestment in the city’s public schools have resulted in achievement gaps across race and income, outdated school facilities, and staffing shortages,” organizers said. “Students in low-income families bear the hardship of decades-long disinvestment and need greater instructional, housing, health, and social supports to thrive.”
Charlottesville United is looking to work with other community groups, parents and students as well as pushing for financial investments in the division.
“This is a citywide effort that requires all hands on deck,” said Mary Coleman, director of City of Promise and recruitment coordinator for Charlottesville United. “We are looking to engage, educate, and empower more community members to use their voices and help shape our public schools. We want to ensure the learning experience and outcomes for all students are strong regardless of socioeconomic status.”
For more information, go to charlottesvilleunited.org.