Our Neighbor, Norfolk

Following the kerfuffle over our School Board’s’ (probably illegal) secret adoption of its 2020 budget, the Board released that budget.

I have a lot of reading to go, but was stopped by this on page 11 of the budget:

Free and Reduced Lunch Population

Free  and  reduced  lunch  population  is  a  measure  of  poverty.  As  reflected  in  the  Department  of  Education’s October 31, 2013 report, RPS ranked as the 9th highest free and reduced lunch population in the  Commonwealth  with  17,351  or  over  74.25%  of  our  students  receiving  subsidized  meals  under  the  Federal  school  lunch  program.  The  graph  shown  below  depicts  Richmond’s  status  as  compared  to  neighboring districts and the state average.


Norfolk is 92 miles away by car.  Some “neighboring district.”

Then we have the dates: The graph stops at 2014.  The “Program Statistics” page on the VDOE Web site has Free/Reduced Lunch data thru 2018-2019.

Even more to the point, VDOE has a more general measure of poverty, “economically disadvantaged.”

Economically Disadvantaged   A flag that identifies students as economically disadvantaged if they meet any one of the following: 1) is eligible for Free/Reduced Meals, or 2) receives TANF, or 3) is eligible for Medicaid, or 4) identified as either Migrant or experiencing Homelessness.

The VDOE Fall Membership database provides the economically disadvantaged populations through 2018-19 for the state and all divisions.  Here are those data for Richmond and the peer jurisdictions:


Do you suppose the School Board’s graph stopped at 2014 because they were just too lazy to update the graph?  Or, perhaps, because that was the year that showed Richmond’s largest free/reduced percentage?

Still more to the point, this appears to be an official embrace of the School Board’s “Blame the Students” excuse for its own failure. 

It is clear, of course, that economically disadvantaged students underperform their more affluent peers.  On the SOL pass rate, the state average difference is about 20 points, depending on the subject. 


But Richmond magnifies that effect: Because of the awful schools, Richmond’s students, economically disadvantaged and not, grossly underperform their peers.  For example, on the reading tests (Richmond is the enlarged, gold points):


Note added 2/28: That’s %ED in the tested group, not the division.

For the School Board to blame poverty for its own failures is a shameless lie.

It begins to look like reading this budget will be about as much fun as reviewing the performance of Richmond’s schools.