RPS superintendent talks racial inequality in schools at MLK event

Jason Kamras has headed Richmond schools since 2018. Photo courtesy of Kevin Morley/VCU Marketing

Chris Wood, Contributing Writer

Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras spoke at Cabell Library Jan. 24 about what he perceives as a lack of funding and racial inequality in Richmond schools.

As one of the events in a weeklong series held by VCU commemorating the life of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., Kamras contrasted the reality RPS faces and King’s vision for education.

“Richmond Public School students are every bit as brilliant and creative and dynamic and empathic and funny as any other kid in America,” Kamras said. “There’s nothing broken about our kids. There’s a whole lot broken about our system.”

Kamras talked about his experiences visiting Richmond schools. At the end of every visit, he asked the children one thing they would change to make their schools better.

“It wasn’t about the teachers. It wasn’t the technology. It wasn’t even the food,” Kamras said. “It was ‘Mr. Kamras, will you fix the bathrooms?’”

Kamras said he went into the bathrooms afterward and found stalls without doors and mold on the walls. Soap dispensers with no soap were hanging off walls covered with cracked tiles and graffitti, he said.

“I believe a big reason for that is because most of our kids are African-American,” Kamras said. “If our system was 100 percent white kids, I bet you the city would have found the money to fix the bathrooms.”

Kamras has identified racism as one of the biggest problems contributing to a lack of funding for Richmond schools since he became superintendent in 2018. He has also focused on the lack of upper-level courses offered by the district.

“When I got here last year, I went to Armstrong high school. I said, ‘Hey tell me about your AP classes,’ and they said they only have one,” Kamras said. “How can we expect greatness from our kids if we don’t give them the opportunity to be great?”

Kamras ended his speech by saying the country’s greatness lies in the fact that people can point out what is not right and keep pushing for a better future.

“Things like liberty, justice and freedom truly become a reality for everyone in America,” Kamras said. “And I think we can all agree that is certainly not the case today.”

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