It truly takes everyone in the community working together to provide the best educational opportunities to our children. Parents, teachers, faith leaders, community leaders, librarians, city government, state government, community colleges, and many more are needed to offer the best opportunities. This post is intended to highlight a few of the efforts present in our community.
The taxpayers of the City of Roanoke contribute more tax revenue to education funding than any other expenditure in the City’s annual budget. Roughly 40% of the total local revenues are dedicated to funding early childhood learning programs; elementary, middle, and high school operations; and support of post-secondary education. These funds are matched by sizable contributions from the Commonwealth in their support of many of these same institutions and programs.
Roanoke City Public Schools
Roanoke City Public Schools serves 14,000 students through 17 elementary schools, five middle schools, two high schools, and four alternative schools, with more than 2,000 faculty and staff at a per pupil annual cost of nearly $18,000. All schools are accredited and the current graduation rate is right at 90%. For nine consecutive years, the National Association of Music Merchants has recognized RCPS as one of the Best Communities for Music. In addition, RCPS has a top 5 elementary school in the State; a Region 6 Teacher of the Year; 14 student athletes that will go on to play at the collegiate level; students who have won National competitions in biology, environmental sciences, and forensics; and much more.
Early Childhood Reading
Prior to entering elementary school and during their early years at school, a collaboration of dozens of community partners work together to ensure reading proficiency, a strong indicator of later academic success. Operating under the Star City Reads banner, this nationally recognized program provides books to the parents of newborn babies in Roanoke and facilitates meals and literacy lessons to youth at City library branches throughout the summer. It also places volunteer readers in classrooms throughout the City and provides books on public buses, in hair salons, and in barbershops. The program has resulted in thousands of area youth and their parents having access to books and has helped prepare students for academic success.
Helping Make College a Reality
Nearly 15 years ago, the community came together to offer one of Virginia’s first free college programs—a public-private model in partnership with Virginia Western Community College. The Community College Access Program (CCAP) has provided more than $8 million in tuition assistance since its inception in 2008, helping more than 3,400 students alleviate debt while securing further education. More than one-third of the students in Virginia Western participate in in CCAP and 80% intend on transferring to a four-year institution, enabling them to continue their education even further. As a way for CCAP recipients to return the favor to their community, each recipient volunteers for community service. As a result, more than 25,000 hours of community service has been provided by students.
Education provides a gateway to opportunity for the rest of one’s life. Our community has come together to do what it can to ensure children are prepared to succeed, that they receive outstanding instruction in quality facilities, and that they are able to pursue their interests beyond high school. This is how our Star City gets it done!
— Bob Cowell