VCU Board of Visitors and Richmond City Council Rubber Stamp Cuts to Working Class Education

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On May 13th, the VCU Board of Visitors voted to authorize a 2.8 percent increase in tuition and fees for the upcoming academic year. This is only the latest in a long series of annual increases, which are the local manifestation of a state and national attack on higher education carried out in the interests of capital.

Tuition hikes make VCU increasingly inaccessible to working class students. Increasing tuition is a key factor in the ongoing process of gentrification in Richmond, contributing to the displacement of the black working class. An unaffordable university is required to make the city center a sterile playground for predominantly white professionals. The only adequate response to this ongoing attack is building unity between workers and students on the basis of struggle
against the bosses and bureaucrats.
A small contingent from RSCI carried out agitation against the vote. The Board of Visitors timed their final meeting to pass the tuition increase at the end of the semester after most students had already gone home or were burdened with finals. We see this action as only a beginning. We look forward to building militant mass action that is required to force concessions from the university administration. The future is only bright if we renounce the helpless dead end of lobbying, petitions, and voter registration in favor of organizing as a material force to impose our interests.

 

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On the same day, the Richmond City Council held a meeting where Council members voted to continue the defunding of the already dilapidated RPS system after silently “listening” to the frustrated and angry comments of students, teachers, and others. Richmond officials can find more than a hundred million for a new jail to warehouse the black working class, but when it comes to keeping the schools open—or even repairing schools to the point where they no longer pose a daily risk to the health and safety of students—money is nowhere to be found.
RSCI members used the public comment period to point out to those in attendance that the crisis of public education cannot be resolved by appeals to elected officials whose job is to represent the business interests that own this city. Only through organizing independently of electoral parties, non­ profits, and bureaucratic unions on the base of our common class interests can we begin to reverse the degradation of our living conditions of those in power.
Appealing to City Council or voting for this or that bogus “reform” candidate will only divert our energies from the task at hand: the unification of students, parents, and teachers in a struggle to stop school closures, improve living conditions, and democratize education.

 

Update on the School Front: City Council is Part of the Problem

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April 26th – RSCI militants have been working around the clock since initiating struggle around the crisis of Richmond Public Schools.

Including:

  • developing a newsletter with regular updates on the state of the struggle
  • distributing the newsletter to students and their allies affected by the slated school closures
  • discussing and informing students about the significance of this struggle and its larger implications for the East End and the city in terms of gentrification, destruction of public housing, inadequate housing, inadequate jobs, and the overall degradation of the black, poor, and working class.

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Today we marched, from MLK Jr Middle School to City Hall, rallied out front, and then took our seats for the city council meeting. The set agenda and meeting procedure was largely formalistic and substanceless. There was no real democracy in this space. The meeting began by covering announcements, congratulations, and formal recognitions to various groups, the most ironic being the celebration of a white, West End neighborhood association. Everyone at the meeting filled the chambers because of the school crisis. They opened up the floor for public comment, only half of the registered speakers were in attendance, and the called names were quickly shuffled through, the city council was quick to close the comment section of the meeting.

It was only when an RSCI militant interrupted the formalistic jargon being spoken by city council that a new space was opened for a real expression of working class hostility directed at these city officials, challenging their authority and claims of an inability to properly fund the schools. The crowd was stirred by this attack and provided the room for mass democracy to momentarily emerge with two black working class women severely attacking the council, one woman brought to tears describing how hard it is for her to have to work two jobs, and also have to deal with the destruction of the public school system.

Others had lined up to go to the floor and speak as well, but the council tried to halt the derailment of their agenda. RSCI militants encouraged people to speak out, broke city council rules that we were “not allowed” to stand up and we were “not allowed” to clap in agreement of a person speaking. This was a powerful moment, to have these women place shame upon these officials. The police and security tried to remove and silence us, but we refused to leave.

After this first wave of disruption subsided, the city council was placed on the defensive. Several members paid lip service that they didn’t want to see schools close, but basically claimed that they didn’t know where any additional funds were located, while implying the School Board was misappropriating funds. They acknowledged the historical legacy of the school system being neglected, but offered no way forward.

It was at this time that another RSCI militant interrupted and told the city council that they can’t fix this problem, that they admit their incapacity to address this fundamental issue that goes to the heart of living under the white supremacist, capitalist state. After emphasizing this, the militant was kicked out and removed by security.

We consider this intervention at this particular site of struggle a success. We created the space for mass democracy, where exploited people were given a window to speak bitterness at those who are the source of their degradation, who are functionaries of the white supremacist, capitalist state. It is correct to view them as the political enemy of the masses in their struggle to defend their right and access to public education. We are fully aware that this success is simply the beginning of a struggle against the white supremacist capitalist state that will require continued work to develop. Even if the city refrains from closing all the schools their attitude towards the working class of this city is clear and must be opposed.

These governing bodies all deny responsibility in the replication of this oppressive system, that it is out of their hands, and they are merely appendages of a larger structure that forces them to govern the wealth of the city for the interests of the rich. In fact their only proposal to deal with these “budget shortfalls” is to “generate more revenue”. So essentially they say we can solve the problems of capitalism and white supremacy with more of the same.

We must have no faith in these governing bodies, we have to form our own organizations and parallel structures to counter theirs. They make it clear they will only continue with more of the same. If we want something new, if we want a real change in how the city is run, then we must do it ourselves and we must struggle to build our collective power through political organization to break free from the yoke of this system. No more illusions, no more avoiding struggle, we have to intensify our efforts.

STOP SCHOOL CLOSURES!

STUDENTS AND THEIR ALLIES SEIZE POWER!

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