Is there a Better Way to Manage Virginia’s State Colleges and Universities?

Tim Sands, President of Virginia Tech. Courtesy Virginia Tech

by James C. Sherlock

My wife and I had the pleasure of dining recently with a woman pursuing a career in the financial services industry.  I asked her about the leadership of her company.  What was the climate in her workplace?

She answered that the first thing she learned was to “color inside the lines”.

She elaborated that the “lines” of which she spoke were the federal regulations which governed her work, which is wealth management.  Rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission and those of the rest of the agencies that regulate financial services.

In her workplace, she is employed doing investment analysis, including dealing with the businesses she analyses.  Later she may move to deal with customers.  Or technology.  Or go to law school to move through the ranks to general counsel.  Or get a finance degree with a goal of being comptroller.  And then maybe CEO.  In a related industry.

In any role she will assume increasing management and administrative responsibilities.   At every step, she will be mentored to be both skilled and creative.  But always to learn new sets of lines and stay within them.  She has not only learned but internalized her first set of lines.

She is 23 years old.

Similarly, skilled academics, even those with experiences as dean of a school within a university whose job is distanced from the day-to-day concerns of the executive suite, cannot reasonably be expected to jump straight to the role of chief executive of a major university and be successful.

There are too many management lines, including state laws and regulations, within which he or she must color that need to be internalized first.

And perhaps there is a way to manage Virginia’s portfolio of state colleges and universities that is better than we do it now and reduces the chances of mismanagement. Continue reading

Virginia’s Northam Learning Gap

by L. Scott Ligamfelter

It should surprise no one. After the ill-conceived March 2020 closing of Virginia’s public schools by former Democrat Gov. Ralph Northam, it should have been evident that children would suffer academically.

We now know the extent of that damage to fourth and eighth grade students. Virginia’s Secretary of Education, Aimee Rogstad Guidera, put it aptly. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results, she said, offer a “clear and heart-wrenching” statement on the “catastrophic decline” and a “predictable outcome of the decade-long systemic dismantling of a foundational commitment to excellence in education.” It didn’t have to be. What followed was a complete failure in virtual education. In the process, children fell victim to the self-absorbed politics of teachers’ unions and a complete disregard of the medical evidence from European countries that school-aged children were not at increased threat to contract COVID-19.

Moreover, the teachers’ unions saw the COVID-19 closing as an opportunity to keep schools shuttered while they lobbied for more pay and fatter school budgets once the pandemic crisis passed. A cynical assessment? Yes. But even when high schoolers in my county of Prince William returned to classrooms in 2021, teachers remained out, preferring to instruct kids virtually even as their students sat in segmented classroom space watching their teacher on a computer screen. It was farcical, and Virginia’s parents knew it.

Enter Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin, who correctly characterized parental outrage in Virginia, not only for the elongated closure of public schools, but also for the “woke pandemic” spread by liberal school boards bent on indoctrinating children to be social justice warriors. Of almost no concern to these latter-day commissars was the performance of our kids and grandkids in reading, math, genuine history, and critical thinking skills. Mr. Youngkin listened to parents. In turn, they elected Mr. Youngkin because he pledged to realign educational priorities to those of parents, not woke administrators.

The governor is rightly indignant over the recent NAEP results and has committed to ensuring that Virginia children “have the tools and support structure to get back on track.” Tutors, particularly in math and reading, are needed for our fourth graders. Reading scores for this segment were dismal, tumbling from seventh to 33rd place among all states. In math, fourth grade students barely reached the national average.

Continue reading

Jeanine’s Memes

at The Bull Elephant.

Suggestions to Ease Virginia’s Housing Crisis without Additional State Money

Courtesy californiahumandevelopment.org

by James C. Sherlock

The Richmond Times-Dispatch, on cue, wrote in an editorial the other day that more state money was needed to fund local housing.

Maybe.

But that is not the first place to look.

The governor wants to condition development aid to local communities on their reforming land-use policies to permit more construction.

I have a few ideas along that line.

Proffers, also known as conditional zoning, are a recognition that real estate developments have impacts on other properties and on services provided by the local jurisdiction. Fair enough.

The money for roads, sewers and schools has to come from somewhere. Proffers make the developers and their customers pay for a share of capital improvements deemed necessary by city/county planners.

Wielded unpredictably, and sometimes unethically, they are also part of the problem. See the excellent article Politics and Proffers by Matt Ahern for the games played with proffers and their cost to the housing economy.

Then there is low-cost housing.

The Commonwealth by law permits but does not require localities to waive fees for low-cost housing. That law, originally and curiously restricted to only non-profit developers, was updated in 2019 to permit the same waivers to for-profit builders.

Send state housing funds only to jurisdictions that do so. Require in law a limit to the costs of proffers for low-cost housing.

Finally, tax Virginia’s astonishingly profitable non-profit hospitals to help them with their mission of caring for the disadvantaged — in this case in low-cost housing. Continue reading

SCHEV’s Study on College Completion Rates Is… Incomplete

by James A. Bacon

The dirty secret of the higher-ed industry is the high rate at which students drop out of college. The six-year graduation rate for full-time, in-state students entering Virginia’s public four-year institutions in 1995 was 60%, implying a drop-out rate of 40%, according to State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) data.

After Virginia institutions made strenuous efforts to improve performance, the rate increased to 73% for the 2015 entering class — a big improvement. But there is still a long way to go — and it’s not yet clear from the published data what impact the COVID pandemic had on completions.

A high drop-out rate is a major social issue. Thousands of Virginia students spend tens of thousands of dollars, often borrowed, on tuition, fees, and room and board without ever acquiring a credential to improve their job prospects. Recognizing the problem, SCHEV has issued a report, “What Matters Most,” which explores how Virginia higher-ed can get better results.

The report contains some useful perspectives. But, as one might expect from a document compiled with input from university administrators with vested interests and sacred cows to protect — deans of students, vice presidents of student affairs, vice presidents of admissions, student support services administrators, and unspecified “subject matter experts” —  it has blind spots as well. Continue reading

Bacon Meme of the Week

Remembering Donald McEachin

by Chris Saxman

Virginia lost a good man this week when Congressman Don McEachin passed away at age 61 due to cancer. Having served with McEachin in the Virginia House, I can attest to his fine nature and dedication to his principles. While I didn’t have the fortune to work with him directly on legislation, he was, without fail, a kind and thoughtful man who had deep respect for and from his colleagues. It was an honor to know him and I will remember him very fondly.

Don McEachin was a good, gentle, and kind man. Please keep his soul and his family in your prayers.

While it is still a tad early for candidates to publicly begin the process to replace McEachin, the private conversations will turn quickly to whether or not his wife, Colette, Richmond’s Commonwealth Attorney, decides to run for his seat in a special election.

Other candidates who have been mentioned but have not said, “No, thank you.” include Delegate Lamont Bagby and Senator Jennifer McClellan. The 4th Congressional District was won just a month ago by McEachin with 65% of the vote. It will again be represented by a Democrat.

Possibly a January 10th special election date could be held since that’s when the special election will be for Congresswoman-elect Jen Kiggans’ state Senate seat.

By the numbers, 30% of the 4th is Richmond, 24% is Chesterfield, and 18% comes from Henrico.

From Chris Saxman’s The Intersection. Used with permission.

Richmond Community Hospital: Poster Child for Reforming 340B

By Dr. William S. Smith
and Chris Braunlich

Nonprofit hospitals in low-income neighborhoods should be the backbone of the American safety net system for low-income people who lack insurance. Instead, thanks to a federal program called 340B, many nonprofit hospitals have made maximizing revenue their primary goal, not providing charity care. Thanks to a New York Times investigation, Richmond Community Hospital has become the starkest example of a nonprofit hospital that exploits the 340B program while reducing medical services available to the distressed community surrounding the hospital.

The 340B program was created by Congress in 1992 and was intended to allow about 500 hospitals in low-income areas to purchase drugs at substantial discounts. It was thought that, with these discounts, nonprofit hospitals could provide more free care to the distressed communities where they were located.

However, the law was poorly written, and hospitals soon discovered that they could “arbitrage” these drug discounts into a profit center. How could they do this? In short, buy low and sell high. As The New York Times story explained, Richmond Community can buy a vial of the cancer drug Keytruda at a discounted price of $3,444, yet can bill the local Blue Cross health plan $25,425 for that same vial, for a profit of $22,000 on one patient’s prescription. Continue reading

Fork Union Has Produced 117 Pro Football Players

by James Wyatt Whitehead V  

One of my favorite times of the year is after Thanksgiving. That is when the playoffs for the Virginia High School League football championship thunders into overdrive. For fifteen years I had one of the best seats for high school football as the public address announcer for Briar Woods High School in Loudoun County. The Falcons were always ready to tackle the very best teams from across the Commonwealth. From 2010 to 2013 Briar Woods had four appearances and three victories in state championship finals. Briar Woods sent many student athletes on to play collegiate football and two went on to play professionally. This led me to wonder which high school or prep school in Virginia has produced the most professional football players.

The answer can be found in the rolling countryside of Fluvanna County: Fork Union Military Academy. Since 1899, the all-male military school has produced a staggering 117 professional football players. It all started when FUMA graduate John Lascari moved on to play college ball at Georgetown and then pressed on to play ten games for the New York Giants in 1924. Lascari caught three passes and one touchdown.  

Since then, the Blue Devils have produced some of the very best professional players of the past forty years. Back in 1980, Al Testaverde drove from New York to Fork Union with his son Vinny to explore the possibilities of a post graduate prep year. After a tour of campus and meeting with coaches Al turned to his son and said:

“Son you are going there.”

The highly talented quarterback was in need of  preparation for life, improved grades, and a chastening for personal conduct in order to pursue the dream of a college football career.  

Years later, Vinny Testaverde said, “It was the best decision my father ever made for me.”  Continue reading

Are Virginians Putting the State’s Economy on Their Credit Cards?

by James C. Sherlock

Royalty-free stock photo Courtesy Dreamstime.com

I wrote the other day about efforts to increase housing in Virginia. That story is very complicated at the levels of the federal, state and local governments.

But at the end of that pipeline is the economy.

We have read in many places that consumers are spending the savings they built up during COVID, keeping the economy out of recession.

Perhaps.

But it turns out that consumers have been putting the economy on their credit cards as well. Continue reading

Whiplash on Virginia’s Economy

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

“Our beloved Commonwealth is in a ditch.” Glenn Youngkin, May 7, 2021.also see here.

“The commonwealth has never been in a stronger financial condition.” Glenn Youngkin, Nov. 21, 2022

Profoundly Unethical: UVa Children’s Hospital Hides Child Gender Transition Information from Public Scrutiny

UVa Children’s Hospital courtesy UVa

by James C. Sherlock

I published a series of articles earlier this year that criticized the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital on its approach to gender transition in minors as young as 11.

As a result, the hospital made at least some movement towards change by announcing it was assigning pediatric clinical psychologists to join that program, previously dominated by endocrinologists.

I saw that move as an indication that the minors who came to the clinic would be treated first for anxiety, depression and ongoing emotional issues before being considered for insertion into the hormone-to-surgery pipeline.

That now may be the case, though there is no case flow diagram published. But nothing else has apparently changed except for the elimination of the public information on which I based my criticisms.

There is growing concern among many doctors and other healthcare professionals as to whether medical transition is the best way to proceed for those under aged 18. I have written extensively that several countries have pulled back from medical treatment and instead are emphasizing psychotherapy first.

UVa Children’s is a state hospital. Hiding information from the public to avoid scrutiny cannot be an option.

I call on the Board of Visitors to direct the hospital to improve transparency in the UVa Children’s Hospital web presentations on gender transitions in minors.

Without this, the hospital is guilty of misleading the public.  The removal of previously-available public information shows they are doing this on purpose. Continue reading

Don’t Look Now But the ACLU is Back

by Kerry Dougherty

Anyone remember how active Virginia’s ACLU — that’s the American Civil Liberties Union — was during Gov. Ralph Northam’s dictatorial Covid reign?

Did this organization sprint into court seeking injunctions when the governor ordered churches and synagogues closed? When he arbitrarily closed businesses? When he told Virginians how many guests they could have in their own homes?

Can anyone recall these crack lawyers who supposedly care deeply about the civil liberties of Americans saying a word of protest when the Democrat governor merrily stomped all over the civil liberties of law-abiding citizens from Virginia Beach to Bristol?

The answer is a resounding NO.

This once bold organization that in 1978 famously defended the right of repulsive neo-Nazis to march through a predominately Jewish neighborhood in Skokie, Illinois to exercise their First Amendment rights, because dammit, the ACLU believed in the U.S. Constitution, sucked its thumb through the most egregious infringements on civil liberties in recent memory.

Have no fear, the ACLU is back! This sleepy organization has crawled out of its bunker and is now fighting to get violent criminals out of Virginia prisons. Continue reading

No Climate Crisis. Very Little Climate Change.

NOAA data, and NOAA notes that pre-1900 data is probably missing some storms. Click for larger view.

by Steve Haner

Wednesday’s climate propaganda sermon in the Richmond Times-Dispatch focused on the most recent failure of alarmist media messaging concerning the now-completed Atlantic hurricane season, which turned out to be average. It was predicted to be far more active than average, so once again the prophets of doom were wrong.

Folks in Florida certainly had a bad year, with two of the eight U.S. hurricanes hitting vulnerable and heavily populated beaches and barrier islands. But in the Atlantic region overall, looking at decades of records, it was a typical year. There is no sign in long-range data of any increase in storm activity or intensity over time.

Predicting increased extreme weather is now the go-to move for the alarmist media. Just about every local or wire story about flood or drought or fire, extended hot days or record snows, includes a claim that climate change will bring more extreme weather. In every case, the long-term trends do not agree.  Sometimes the trend lines are down, as is the case with wildfires.

You will never read that admission about wildfires. The fact that the Times-Dispatch revisited and sought to explain away the failed hurricane prediction displayed more honesty than is usual in the media. But, then, it used an illustration that shamelessly started the storm count in the 1980s, intending to mislead readers by ignoring the whole data set you see above. Continue reading

New VPAP Modelling Shows Why Virginia Republicans Are Losing Elections

by Shaun Kenney

There’s a common theme among Virginia Republican number crunchers that Fairfax County is the snake that swallowed the bowling ball.

More accurately, that no matter how well Republicans might seem to do across the Commonwealth, when 1.3 million Fairfax County residents make their voices heard, that’s a massive fraction of the nearly 9 million Virginians who live here.

Which leads us to point #2 that Republican number crunchers make all the time, namely that the western part of Virginia from Roanoke to Lee County is our Fairfax County.

So how do we do in a place which the locals affectionately call “real Virginia” (in response to the feeling in Southwest Virginia that many in Richmond believe Virginia stops at Roanoke)?

It looks like this:

Former Republican Party of Virginia Chairman Pat Mullins made it his life’s mission to make sure Southwest Virginia was the focal point of all our efforts. There was a good reason for it.

Not only was Mullins a native of Southwest Virginia, but he lived in Northern Virginia most of his career and knew firsthand that the only way to counterbalance the “come-heres” from points north was to encourage the “been-heres” in Southwest Virginia who share Republican values yet receive none of the love showered upon places such as Loudoun or Prince William. Continue reading