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Budget Fix: Send More City Pupils to Maggie Walker? 

School Board member proposes unique budget-trimming solution.

With belt-tightening efforts all the rage in public schools these days, Richmond School Board member Kimberly Gray is proposing a unique solution to trimming a few bucks from the budget while improving educational opportunities for city students: send more Richmond students to the Maggie Walker Governor's School.

“If [governor's school] slots were to become available, we should buy them as a cost savings — and as a recruitment and retention tool,” says Gray, noting that although Chesterfield County Superintendent of Schools Marcus Newsom has given parents some reassurance that he won't propose pulling the county out of the governor's school, nothing is set in stone until the county's School Board votes.

While Chesterfield and other county schools may send students to Maggie Walker at a loss — eliminating the $7,800 per-pupil tuition to use the school would save Chesterfield $2 million yearly, officials say — the same is not so for Richmond.

“Our per pupil cost is over $13,000,” Gray says. “Now, even if you factor in transportation and some administrative costs, it's cheaper for us to send the kids to the governor's school than to educate them in Richmond Public Schools.”

The plan may even be in line with Superintendent Yvonne Brandon's student-retention-oriented Choice campaign, which aims to recruit more students back to city schools rather than leave for the counties or private school.

“We have more students eligible for [international baccalaureate] and governor's school than we have slots,” she says. “That causes huge attrition — we lose a lot of children because we can't meet the demand of our district students to have challenging programs with academic rigor.”

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