Author Archives: James A. Bacon

Bacon Bits: Reality Sucks Edition

Bye, Bye, Brackney. The City of Charlottesville will not renew the employment contract of Police Chief RaShall Brackney, who took on the job in June 2018, the City announced on its website yesterday. No explanation was given. However, the announcement follows less than two weeks after publication of a survey of Charlottesville police officers showing the morale was in the dumps, that toxic city politics had prompted many to scale back on traffic stops, arrests and community policing, and that few officers felt that Brackney had their back. Among other actions as the city’s first Black female police chief, who came on shortly after the tumultuous Unite the Right Rally, Brackney had dissolved the SWAT Team after allegations of misogynistic and other inappropriate behavior.

Speaking of employment contracts… University of Virginia President Jim Ryan was awarded a $200,000 bonus during a closed session of the June 3 Board of Visitors meeting, The Cavalier Daily student newspaper has revealed. The university froze salaries for all employees during the early months of the COVID-19 epidemic, and Ryan and other senior officials took a 10% pay cut. Said Rector Whittington Clement: “When the situation this year became clearer and we had a highly successful handling of COVID-19, we think the University did as well as, if not better, than any institution of higher learning in making the adjustments necessary to COVID-19, we thought that it was appropriate to give him a bonus.” Continue reading

Nine Years Later, Bon Secours Still Hasn’t Made Good on Promises

With help from Redskins cheerleaders, then-Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones announces the $40 million Redskins training camp deal. Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

by James A. Bacon

In October 2012, the City of Richmond negotiated a $40 million deal with the Washington Redskins and the Bon Secours Virginia Health System to build a Redskins training camp in the city. The complex deal had many moving parts. To make it happen, the city gave Bon Secours a long-term lease on the property of the old Westhampton School site so it could build a medical facility in the city’s prosperous West End. In exchange for favorable lease terms and the right to sponsor the training camp, the Richmond-based health system agreed to construct a medical office and fitness center in the poor, inner-city East End where it also operated the Richmond Community Hospital.

“This agreement will allow Bon Secours to significantly expand upon our effort to build healthier communities across Richmond,” CEO Peter J. Bernard said in a news release at the time.

Bon Secours did build the fitness center. But nearly a decade later, no ground has broken for the medical office.

Time is running out for the company to make good on its agreement, warn Michael Schewel, former executive vice president of Tredegar Corp., who served as Secretary of Commerce and Trade under Governor Mark Warner, and Steve Markel, chairman of the Markel Corp.

“They’ve gotten an extension from the EDA (Economic Development Authority) and they’re absolutely at the end of their time,” says Schewel. They’ve got to get a building permit, build a building, hire people, and get it done within a year of Jan. 1. It takes six months just to get a building permit from the city!” Continue reading

Last Year’s Enrollment Declines Sharpest in Kindergarten

Annual District Enrollment for Kindergarten using 2015 as the base year, comparing remote only (straight line), hybrid (dashed line), and in-person (dotted line) trends.

by James A. Bacon

National enrollment in public schools across the country fell by 2% nationally — by 1.1 million students — in the 2020-21 school year as school districts and parents grappled with how to respond to the COVID-19 epidemic, finds a new study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

The decline was concentrated in the early grades. Kindergarten enrollment plummeted by 9%, concluded the study, “The Revealed Preferences for School Reopening: Evidence from Public-School Disenrollment,” by Thomas Dee and three co-authors, all with Stanford University.

“These results suggest that significant numbers of parents, particularly parents of younger children, did not want their children to participate in remote instruction,” write Dee et al. Continue reading

Hospitals Experiencing a COVID Crunch

COVID-19 hospitalizations in Virginia. Source: Virginia Department of Health

The media is full of stories about how the rebound in COVID-19 cases fueled by the Delta variant is putting hospitals under the most stress since the peak of the epidemic in February. Hospitals are rapidly filling up. Some are reporting shortages of beds, others of staff. Making matters worse, hospitals from other states, also inundated by COVID, are so desperate they are poaching nurses from Virginia.

In no way do I minimize the current challenges facing hospitals. But it is important to maintain clarity about what’s going on. Hospitals are not feeling a crunch because hospitalizations have reached the same level as during the peak. You can see clearly in the graph above that hospitalizations are running about one-third the level of February.  Continue reading

Welcome to America

Afghan refugees boarding a bus at Dulles international Airport. Photo credit: AP

Thousands of Afghan refugees are arriving at Fort Lee in Virginia for medical treatment and immigration processing before settling permanently in the U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, who visited Fort Lee Monday, estimates that 70,000 to 80,000 Afghans live in the U.S., reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Odds are that most of the refugees from Taliban-ruled Afghanistan — more than 140,000 have been evacuated by the U.S. military — will end up in the United States, where they will plug into existing Afghan communities in Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, Richmond, Charlottesville, and elsewhere. Here at Bacon’s Rebellion, we thank the Afghans for their assistance to American forces, welcome  them to the U.S., and wish them well as they build new lives for themselves.

— JAB

Fairfax Schools to Spend $188 Million Undoing Shutdown Damage

Source: Fairfax County “ESSER III Spending Plan”

by James A. Bacon

Fairfax County Public Schools are getting $188 million in federal helicopter COVID-19 relief funds, and school officials propose spending about 88% of the sum undoing the damage caused by the system’s COVID-19 shutdowns. Eighty-six million will go toward addressing “unfinished learning,” and another $78 million to “academic, social, emotional and mental health needs.”

“Disruptions to learning during COVID-19 have resulted in significant ‘unfinished learning’ or ‘learning loss,'” states the proposed ESSER III Spending Plan. (ESSER stands for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief.) Studies predict that students will return this fall with roughly 70% of learning gains in reading achievement compared to a typical school year and 50% of the gains in mathematics, the document says.

The pandemic and “initial school closures” had a disproportionate impact on students with disabilities, English Language Learners, students of color, and economically disadvantaged students, the document says. Nationally, White students likely lost four to eight months, while students of color lost six to twelve months. Continue reading

Wrestling Control of Schools from the Loony Left

by Kerry Dougherty

I’ve never been a fan of checkout charities.

You know how they work: The cashier loudly asks you if you want to round up to fight something like restless leg syndrome and you are shamed into contributing, even though you know this lets the Piggly Wiggly take credit for a fat check to charity.

Yesterday I was picking up notebooks at a Virginia Beach office supply store when the checkout clerk asked if I wanted to donate to “local schools.” He didn’t ask if I wanted to buy school supplies for needy kids, which I would have done in a heartbeat. He wanted to know if I’d like to lard something onto my bill for local schools.

“Nope,” I replied without hesitation.

Frankly, I don’t want to give one penny more to our Virginia Beach schools where the far-left majority on school board fought reopening classrooms last year. Where teachers are quietly being indoctrinated in critical race theory under euphemistic names. Or where the superintendent’s wife in 2020 posted a snuggly photo of herself and her husband to Facebook with an obscene message directed at then-President Donald Trump. Continue reading

Home Values and School Quality

Source: Virginia Association of Realtors

by James A. Bacon

It has become commonly accepted wisdom that a leading cause of poverty  in Virginia is the phenomenon in which affluent citizens use their superior buying power to move to school districts with the highest quality schools. The poor, who have little buying power, are stuck in the worst school districts and get worse educations. Poor kids stuck in poor schools are more likely to grow up…. poor.

I am not disputing that belief, but I am subjecting it to critical scrutiny. The effect likely is real, but we don’t know if it is strong or weak.

On the one hand, there is abundant evidence that school quality and home prices are inter-related. In a recent blog post Lisa Sturtevant, chief economist for the Virginia Association of Realtors, cites a National Association of Realtors survey finding that 24% of home owners say the quality of schools was important when they were looking for a new home. The share rises to 42% for home buyers between the ages of 31 and 40. Another study has found that a five percent improvement in test scores in a school district can raise home prices by 2.5 percent. Another study concluded that homes in top-ranked school districts get more viewers and sell faster. Continue reading

Closing Schools Made Children Fatter, More Vulnerable to COVID

by Hans Bader

Many kids became fatter when schools closed to in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic. “Overweight or obesity increased among 5- through 11-year-olds from 36.2% to 45.7% during the pandemic, an absolute increase of 8.7% and relative increase of 23.8%,” noted the Journal of the American Medical Association.

That’s making the effects of the pandemic much worse. “The evidence linking obesity to adverse COVID-19 outcomes is ‘overwhelmingly clear,’” say health experts. More than half of all people hospitalized for the coronavirus are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Children very rarely die of the coronavirus, but they can suffer a lot from it, especially if they are fat. Obese people are much more likely to require hospitalization when they contract the coronavirus.

“Pediatric COVID-19 cases are surging, pushing hospitals — and health care workers — to their breaking points,” reports Time Magazine. New Orleans is one of America’s fattest cities, and is located in one of America’s least vaccinated states. Predictably, Children’s Hospital of New Orleans (CHNO) is facing a surge in hospitalizations. Continue reading

Unequivocal Support for Free Speech… but Not Transparency

by Walter Smith

To the tune of “Unforgettable”…

Unequivocal you’re not at all
Unequivocal nowhere this fall
Like an empty phrase that runs from me
How your illusion does things to me
Never before has something been less
Unequivocal in every way

The University of Virginia formed the Free Expression and Free Inquiry Committee in February 2021. In May the Board of Visitors “unequivocally” endorsed the work of the Committee. Personally, I think the statement is a disgrace to Jefferson’s free speech legacy – I was hoping for more than the Chicago Principles and got a lukewarm, turgid, academic, PC jargon, kinda sorta saying UVA believes in free speech..

Does UVa really believe in free speech? We have seen that F— UVA is vigorously protected on the Lawn, but what about in the classrooms and on the Grounds? Are students and professors free to express their beliefs without fear of recrimination? Anecdotally, I don’t think they are. I have heard stories. and I have seen true harassment and shaming and threats for the “crime” of not agreeing with current woke ideology du jour. Continue reading

Thirteen Glasses of Beer

by Kerry Dougherty

They were heartfelt and poignant. Most remarkably, they seemed spontaneous.

I’m talking about the makeshift memorials that suddenly appeared in American taverns, breweries and restaurants over the weekend to honor the 13 service members killed in action in Afghanistan on Thursday.

Most featured 13 glasses of beer on an otherwise empty table marked “Reserved.” Many listed the names of the fallen. Others had simple words of appreciation.

These tables were inspired, it seems, by the “Missing Man” table at many Armed Forces dinner events and they served as moving reminders of the Marines, soldier and sailor who were killed by a suicide bomber outside the Abbey Gate of the Kabul Airport as they tried to protect Americans and Afghans trying to flee that country.

No one seems to know who bought the first 13 beers and set them on a table marked “Reserved,” but by Sunday they were everywhere, from Cowboy Jack’s in Fargo, ND to First Line Brewing in Orchard Park, NY. From Klooz Brewz in Lebanon IN, to the Thirsty Horse Saloon in San Antonio. From Southern Craft in Bristol, VA, to at least two local joints, O’Connor Brewing in Norfolk and New Realm in Virginia Beach. Continue reading

Holsworth: Setting the Election Table

Bob Holsworth

Dr. Bob Holsworth is a former professor and founding director for both the Center for Public Policy and the Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University. Holsworth shared extended thoughts on the current state of play in Virginia on his Facebook page. Shaun Kenney applied some light editing and formatting for republication in The Republican Standard. That version appears below.

Three university-based polls have been released in the last week about the Governor’s race. Taken together (and with an appropriate grain of salt), the surveys help to set the table for the November election. Here’s my take on the state of play.

1. The Horse Race

Every poll has McAuliffe leading.

CNU and Roanoke has him with significant leads, 9 and 8 points respectively. VCU (3) and some GOP leaning survey firms (2-5) has McAuliffe ahead by smaller amounts.

I’m comfortable saying that McAuliffe is ahead right now, but I would need to know more about the makeup of the electorate and the relative enthusiasm for the candidates before I’d recommend placing bets on the outcome and the spread. Continue reading

RIP: Ed Risse

by James A. Bacon

Readers of Bacon’s Rebellion in the early days may remember Ed Risse, a long-time contributor to the blog (and its predecessor publication, a biweekly newsletter). Ed, who was 84, passed away a week ago from injuries sustained from a fall.

Ed, whose idiosyncratic byline was E M Risse (with no periods), was a ponderous writer, prone to long essays loaded with specialized vocabulary of his own devising, but a brilliant thinker — the deepest and most original thinker of my acquaintance. Readers who could plow through his work were well rewarded. His passion was human settlement patterns — land use and its relationship to transportation, municipal services, taxes, livability and sustainability. His core thesis was that sprawling, low-density, autocentric development (what others called suburban sprawl, a term he thought too imprecise to ever use himself) had turned Northern Virginia and other Virginia metros into an uninhabitable mess.

The antidote to “sprawl” was balanced, mixed, and compact growth. Ed famously said that if Fairfax County had been developed at the same density as Reston, which is widely regarded as a very livable community, the entire population would fit into a third of the county, leaving the rest for countryside. His vision was similar to that which we now call Smart Growth, although Ed, always the purist, had his disagreements with Smart Growthers, too. Continue reading

What Impact Did COVID Have on the SOLs?

by James A. Bacon

Most Virginia news media duly reported the release of the latest Standards of Learning (SOL) data showing the biggest collapse in pass rates in the history of the SOLs. Most accepted the Northam administration’s spin that the decline was due mainly to COVID-19-related disruptions, and that Virginians should not read too much into the results. Then the media dropped the story. K-12 news coverage moved on to other topics such as the shortage of teachers and bus drivers. (The Washington Post did not deem the SOL story worthy of coverage of any kind.)

You’d think that a collapse of the magnitude seen in the 2020-21 school year — 46% of all students failed to pass their math SOLs — would generate greater interest. You’d think widening racial gap in educational achievement — 66% of Black students failed their math exams — would prompt more scrutiny. Perhaps if the governor were a Republican, the media would be more interested in exploring the story.

Whatever the reasons for the media’s lack of interest in the most important K-12 education story of the year, Bacon’s Rebellion is prepared to step in.

Every school district faced the COVID-19 pandemic. Every school district had to make tough choices based on imperfect and evolving information about whether to continue in-person classes, shift to remote learning, or cobble together a hybrid of the two. But in some districts, the decline in SOL performance was far worse than in others. Continue reading

Paperwork Is for the Little People

Missing

by Donald Smith

This is a story of two political candidates, from two different parties, and the standard that should –but almost assuredly won’t — be applied to both.

The candidates are Terry McAuliffe, Democrat, running for governor of Virginia in 2021, and Nick Freitas, Republican, running for the House of Delegates in 2019.

The standard is that candidates in Virginia elections have to satisfy state requirements for filling out key paperwork.

In 2019, Nick Freitas didn’t. From the Washington Post, July 26th 2019.

State election officials said his local Republican legislative committee never submitted a required form indicating Freitas was the party’s nominee. The state said another form, which Freitas personally should have filed, was also missing.

Freitas was forced to run as a write-in candidate. (He won).

Apparently, in 2021, Terry McAuliffe has his own paperwork problems. From the AP: Continue reading