Author Archives: Bob Rayner

Rep. Bob Good Calls for Hearing on Naming Commission

Rep. Bob Good

by Donald Smith

The Virginia congressman who represents Appomattox, where the Civil War started to end,* wants the House of Representatives to examine the impacts of Congress’ attempt to grapple with the legacy of that war — an attempt that could lay the groundwork for the legacies of Confederate generals and soldiers to be deemed unworthy of public respect in American heritage and in modern-day American society.

Bob Good, representative from Virginia’s 5th Congressional District and chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, issued this press release on Friday, February 2.  It calls for the House Oversight Committee to convene a hearing to review the operations and decisions of the Naming Commission. 

Congress should conduct a thorough review to determine the true nature of the efforts to remove historic statues and memorials. Historical sites are meant to preserve moments that are critical to the growth and healing of our nation and should not be subject to the destructive ruse of political wokeness. I am calling for a full accounting of the actions taken by the Naming Commission so the American people can see for themselves how the Biden Administration used their tax dollars, and if they did so to arbitrarily erase our history.

Good said that the “need for proper accountability and oversight regarding the rationale behind the Commission’s deliberations” warranted a hearing. Continue reading

The Case for an RVA Meals Tax Amnesty

Richmond City Hall

by Jon Baliles

Today we are posting a special edition featuring an email from former restaurateur Brad Hemp that he recently sent to City Council about the meals tax fiasco you have probably heard about as a result of seven years of neglect at City Hall. The Mayor raised the meals tax in 2018 to help build new schools and pledged in return he would also help the restaurants. He raised the tax, and three schools were built, but he forgot about helping the restaurants.

Now, here we are, years later, and the only thing coming from City Hall are vacillating and daily changes and pledges to fix the problem on a “case-by-case” basis (in a vain attempt to get the media stories to stop). As someone who lived and breathed the restaurant business (and could teach the Mayor and Council a few things about it), Hemp has some suggestions to fix the mess. The question is, will the Mayor and City Council finally listen and do something?

RVA 5×5 — PREFACE
The best government is almost always the one that listens. It makes it easier for people to enjoy their lives, better their neighborhoods, open or run a business, and have fun. The worst government is almost aways one that pretends to know everything and thus ignores listening to or helping the people by doing things like, just as an example, forcing through a second casino referendum right after the first one lost. Another way to demonstrate bad government is to find straw-man excuses for erroneous billing of residents for personal property, real estate and water, and misapplying payments of meals taxes for restaurants and never notifying anyone when a bill is late while interest and penalties skyrocket. The “leaders” at City Hall say it’s the fault of state code, or the postal service, or bad technology, or the current lunar cycle. Don’t look inward to see if it’s an internal problem, blame it on everyone and everything else. Continue reading

The General Assembly’s Gift to Virginia’s Students

by Matt Hurt

During the 2024 General Assembly session, two bills were introduced which have the potential to provide two additional weeks of uninterrupted learning that Virginia’s students in grades three through eight haven’t had in a few years.  Specifically, HB 1076 and SB 435 are two very concise sister bills which simply intend to allow school divisions the flexibility to administer other assessments in lieu of the through year growth assessments (HB2027/SB1357) that were required by the 2021 General Assembly, so long as the alternative assessments are aligned to Virginia’s Standards of Learning.  Last week HB 1076 passed the House 80-18 and SB 435 made it through the first Senate subcommittee.

The through year growth assessment legislation was certainly well intentioned.  Educators have clamored for years for a process that would demonstrate student growth throughout the school year and to use this measure for accountability purposes.  The problem with this method of determining growth is that there is a great incentive to obtain high scores at the end of the year, and equally great incentive to obtain low scores at the beginning of the year in order to demonstrate high degrees of growth.  This problem was explained in detail here, and the negative unintended consequences yielded were outlined here

Currently, these through year growth assessments disrupt instruction in each elementary and middle school for a week in the fall and another week in the winter.  While these assessments take a little less time to administer than the end-of-year SOL test, the entire process still takes a significant amount of time.  For example, many students with disabilities require testing accommodations such as small group or one-on-one testing, having the test read aloud, etc., all of which requires teachers to spend extra time testing that they would normally spend instructing students.  Classroom teachers, special education teachers, intervention teachers, instructional aides, etc. are all pressed into service to help with testing, and this limits the amount of time that they work with students. Continue reading

General Assembly Committees Approve Bill That Would Allow Even Serial Killers to Seek Release


from Liberty Unyielding

When Virginia abolished the death penalty in 2021, Virginians were assured it wasn’t needed, because the worst killers could be given life sentences without the possibility of parole.

But now, even the worst killers could eventually be released. Committees in Virginia’s Democratic-controlled legislature have approved bills to allow all inmates serving long sentences to seek release after specified periods — even serial killers and others who committed aggravated murders who once would have been eligible for the death penalty. HB 834 and SB 427, known as the “second look” bills, have been amended to create three tiers for release. Most inmates could seek release after 15 years, while those who commit the most serious offenses would have to wait 20 years or 25 years, depending on their offense.

For Virginia inmates whose prison sentences are shorter than 15 years, this legislation would change nothing. Most rapists who are first-time offenders, and many second-degree murderers, receive sentences of less than 15 years to begin with.

But for serial killers and others who commit aggravated murders who are serving a sentence of life without parole, the passage of this “second look” legislation would be a big change. It could give them even more than parole. Inmates released on parole are subject to the supervision of a parole officer, and if they misbehave or evade oversight, they can be sent back to prison for a long time. By contrast, an inmate who has been released under the “second look” legislation lacks these guardrails, and is not accountable to a parole officer, because his release marks the end of his sentence. Continue reading

2023 School Success Stories

by Matt Hurt

According to the SOL data from the end of the 2022-2023 school year, thirty-four Virginia schools (of three hundred seventy-seven) in the Comprehensive Instructional Program (CIP) consortium achieved the highest level (Level I) for all academic indicators the state uses for accreditation. The intended purpose of these performance benchmarks is to ensure we effectively assure success for all students, regardless of subgroup status.  The Level I benchmarks for the academic indicators for school accreditation ratings are listed below.

English Performance

  • Overall school combined rate (combination of students who scored proficient or advanced and students who were not proficient but made significant gains towards proficiency) of at least 75%;
  • Each subgroup (for which there are at least 30 students in the subgroup enrolled in the school) must also meet the 75% combined rate.  Subgroups used for accreditation purposes are as follows: Asian students, Black students, economically disadvantaged students, English learners, Hispanic students, students with disabilities, White students, and multiracial students.

Math Performance

  • Overall school combined rate (combination of students who scored proficient or advanced and students who were not proficient but made significant gains towards proficiency) of at least 70%;
  • Each subgroup (for which there are at least 30 students in the subgroup enrolled in the school) must also meet the 70% combined rate.  Subgroups used for accreditation purposes are as follows: Asian students, Black students, economically disadvantaged students, English learners, Hispanic students, students with disabilities, White students, and multiracial students.

Science Performance

  • Overall rate of students who scored proficient or advanced of at least 70%.

Once these outcomes were discovered, several of these schools were visited prior to teachers leaving for summer break.  Schools with the highest poverty rates and/or highest minority enrollments were targeted since time only allowed for eight school visits (Bessie Weller Elementary- Staunton City, Highland View Elementary- Bristol City, Saltville Elementary- Smyth County, Sugar Grove Elementary- Smyth County, St. Paul Elementary- Wise County, Tazewell High School- Tazewell County, Tazewell Intermediate School- Tazewell County, Woolwine Elementary- Patrick County).  During these visits, teachers and principals shared the factors that they felt were most significant in their success.  The following narrative is intended to communicate the most common factors for success noted by these dedicated educators.

Continue reading

RVA HISTORY: Strides of Strength

by Jon Baliles

Richmond unveiled a new sculpture last week on the site of the old Westhampton School (near St. Mary’s Hospital) that marked the desegregation of the West-End school in 1961. The 12-foot piece, entitled “Strides,” marks that day when 12-year old student Daisy Jane Cooper (now Jane Cooper Johnson) arrived as the first African American student following a three-year legal battle that took a U.S. District Court’s intervention. (Photo courtesy of Bon Secours.)

At age 9, Jane was having to travel five miles to get to the segregated Carver Elementary School. In 1958, civil rights attorney Oliver Hill submitted an application to the Richmond City School Board on behalf of Jane’s mother to transfer Jane to the all-white Westhampton School. The State Pupil Placement Board rejected the request, which led to the lawsuit that lasted three years and resulted in a groundbreaking victory in 1961. It impacted not only Richmond City schools but other localities as well — and the ruling meant that African-American students no longer required permission from the State Board to attend a white school.

A year after first walking through the doors of Westhampton, Cooper also became the first African-American student to integrate Thomas Jefferson High School in September 1962, after deciding she wanted to go there instead of the all-black Maggie Walker High School. Continue reading

Stay Calm: Police Finally Release Make and Model of the Va. Beach Pier Car

by Kerry Dougherty

Everyone try to maintain your composure. Let’s all stay calm. Perhaps a few moments of meditation are in order.

Deep breath.

Ready?

We finally know the make and model of the car that drove off the 14th Street pier more than a week ago.

The police had that information but withheld it from the public, they said, “to avoid a panic.”

The car that spent almost a week in the Atlantic because the city couldn’t figure out how to remove it from its watery 17-foot grave is a red Nissan Kicks.

Good Lord that’s shocking. Thank goodness THOSE details didn’t leak. Imagine what might have happened.

In case you’re wondering, as I was, what a Nissan Kicks looks like, we’ve included a photo of the panic-inducing compact SUV from the NissanUSA website. Continue reading

Failure Is Not an Option with Proposed SOL Revisions: Part Two

Lisa Coons

by Charles Pyle

Last month, we examined two items on the agendas for the Board of Education’s January 24-25 meetings that seemed to fly in the face of Governor Glenn Youngkin’s 2021 campaign promises to raise expectations for students and schools and increase transparency in how the commonwealth reports on the performance of both.

Under one of Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Coons’ proposals — which was abruptly removed from the agenda of the board’s January 25 business meeting — students would no longer fail Standards of Learning tests in reading and math. Rather, students who failed to meet the proficiency benchmarks would be reported as performing at the “basic” or “below basic” levels. 

As pointed out in last month’s article, while these descriptors mirror those on the national reading and math tests, the potential for confusion would be high given that Virginia sets the proficiency bar on its reading and math SOL tests much lower than the benchmarks students must meet on the national tests, known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Youngkin expressed his concerns about Virginia’s low expectations on the campaign trail in 2021, and vowed in his May 2022 report “Our Commitment to Virginians: High Expectations and Excellence for All Students” to raise the commonwealth’s expectations for students to equal the rigor of the national benchmarks. The governor’s report noted that while other states raised standards during recent years, Virginia’s expectations relative to national standards had slipped to the lowest in the nation. 

But a recent but little-noticed National Center for Education Statistics study confirms that this is still the case, despite the governor’s promise to raise expectations. Continue reading

The Most Improved Virginia School Division in 2023

by Matt Hurt

In a previous paper (Tales of Student Success in 2023) the successes of four of the top five divisions that realized the greatest improvement in SOL pass rates in 2023 were highlighted. Since then, I was afforded the opportunity to visit Greensville County, the division that realized the greatest improvement in Virginia. During this visit teachers and administrators outlined the aspects in their division which they felt lead to these significant improvements. These stories mirror those in the other divisions previously discussed.

Table 1: Top SOL Pass Rate Improvement Divisions from 2022 and 2023

The educators in Greensville County attributed  their significant improvement in student outcomes to a number of factors. They felt that the increased focus on relationships, expectations, leadership, and focusing on the positives helped them to ensure more success for their students than in the past.

Teachers related that they had invested more heavily in relationships with their students over the last few years. As in some other rural areas, these teachers reported that they were mostly from the county, but may not have lived in the same communities as their students. Through discussion with peers, teachers began to consider that some students live in situations that are significantly different from their middle-class experiences. Some of the teachers were familiar with these situations and shared this perspective with others. Continue reading

Five Far-Left Virginia Democrats Vote Not to Deport Illegals with DUIs

by Kerry Dougherty 

If you hobnob with prominent Democrats and find yourself in the company of any of the following Virginia Congress members — Bobby Scott of Newport News, Gerald Connolly of Fairfax, Jennifer McClellan of Richmond, Jennifer Wexton of Leesburg or Don Beyer of Alexandria — invite them to take a drive with you down Virginia Beach Boulevard.

Make sure you stop at the intersection of the Boulevard and Kings Grant Road.

Urge them get out of the car and pause at the faded makeshift memorial for Tessa Tranchant and Ali Kunhardt. On the night of March 30, 2007 these two teenagers were killed by a drunken illegal named Alfredo Ramos. He plowed his car at high speed into the rear of the car where they sat, waiting for the light to change.

Tessa was 16. Ali was 17. They were best friends.

Ramos was a Mexican who entered the country illegally and amassed not one, but two alcohol-related charges, including a DUI, before the inevitable happened: he killed two innocent Americans. Continue reading

Dems Want to Block a Tough-On-Crime Parole Board Chief

by Kerry Dougherty

Virginia Democrats are audacious. You’ve got to give them that.

During the lawless  McAuliffe-Northam years, Virginia’s Parole Board was headed by bleeding hearts, who specialized in releasing criminals.

They were rewarded for their soft-hearted approach with judgeships. Because that’s how Democrats roll.

You’d think the party that favors criminals over victims wouldn’t want to remind the public of its own terrible record.

But they can’t help themselves.

Now that Gov. Glenn Youngkin has named Patricia West, a tough, super-qualified retired Virginia Beach judge to the same position, they’re trying to block her confirmation. They fear she’ll be too tough on criminals.

Dems have removed her name from a list of gubernatorial appointments. Her name could be restored by the entire General Assembly.

You’d think Democrats would be so embarrassed by what they did when they controlled the board they wouldn’t want to remind the public of their own terrible record. Continue reading

Too Many Pieces of the 14th Street Pier Puzzle Don’t Fit

by Kerry Dougherty

Day two and we have more questions than answers about what happened Saturday morning on the 14th Street pier in Virginia Beach.

Yes, we know an SUV drove through two barriers and off the end of the pier. We learned that strong ocean currents and murky water are creating problems for those trying to haul it to the surface.

But get a load of what the police will say when they know the local news media don’t know how to ask follow up questions. (This is from the local newspaper):

Police have not determined who was operating the vehicle, nor do they know if anyone else was inside, according to Virginia Beach police spokesman Jude Brenya. While authorities have identified the type of vehicle, an SUV, police are not releasing the make or model to avoid causing “a panic,” he said.

A PANIC? Seriously?

What the heck are they talking about? What kind of panic? Is this some sort of alien craft? A self-driving Tesla? A Chinese spy SUV? Continue reading

Barbie, Liars, and Newspapers Circling the Drain

by Kerry Dougherty

Warning: I’m a tad grouchy today. You see, I’m a hyperactive gym rat who hasn’t worked out since last Tuesday and has been slowed down by surgery. That happened Wednesday, by the way, when a skilled orthopedic surgeon sawed off part of my leg.

In other words, I’ve had way too much time to brood.

So, I’m starting the week with a litany of irritants that have totally ticked me off.

Number one: I’m sick of feminists protesting that Margot Robbie was cheated out of an Oscar while her male Barbie co-star Ryan Gosling got one.

How many of these same women protested when Riley Gaines was cheated out of her place on a podium by a man, Lia Thomas?

If that’s you, just shut up. No one wants to hear from you.

Plus, I actually watched Barbie on HBO Saturday night.

That may be the worst movie I’ve ever seen. The absolute worst. Worse even than Oppenheimer which was a total yawn, although many people pretend they liked it because it’s about a smart guy and lasted three hours. They think raving about this bore makes them appear intelligent.

It doesn’t. Continue reading

Rent Control Legislation Passes House Committee

from Liberty Unyielding 

Legislation to allow rent control ordinances has passed a committee in Virginia’s House of Delegates. On a party-line, 11-to-9 vote. The Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns passed HB 721, which defines rent gouging to include raising rent to keep up with inflation, if inflation exceeds 7 percent.

This vote reflects the leftward movement of the Democratic Party. Rent control has historically been prohibited not merely in Republican states, but even in many Democratic states. Massachusetts, for example, banned rent control in a 1994 referendum, even as it was electing Democrats to nearly fourth-fifths of the seats in its state legislature, and even as it elected Democrats to eight of its ten seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. When Georgia still had a Democratic-controlled legislature and a Democratic governor, it banned rent control in 1984.

Yet, all Democrats on the committee voted for HB 721.

The legislation states that once a local government has adopted “anti-rent gouging provisions,” it “shall prohibit any rent increase … of more than the locality’s annual anti-rent gouging allowance,” defined as the “percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index...or seven percent, whichever is less.” So if inflation is 9% — as it was from March 2021 to March 2022 —  the landlord can only raise rent by 7%, at most. And the landlord might not be allowed any inflation adjustment at all, because under the legislation, a local government “may” — not must — “allow rent increases” to compensate for inflation.

So landlords will become poorer and poorer due to inflation under these “anti-rent gouging” ordinances. Continue reading

From Sanctuary to Stooge

Mayor Levar Stoney

by Jon Baliles

Most of us have tried hard to block out Mayor Stoney’s July 4th fiasco, when his then-police chief tried hard to impress the boss and concocted a fake foiled mass shooting plot at Dogwood Dell on July 4, 2022. The Mayor denied he ever knew about it. The chief said he knew about it beforehand but claims to have never told the mayor or any of the officers working the event in a public park that annually draws thousands of people. Within days the story fell apart and it was revealed in court a few weeks later that there was no — as in zero — evidence that there ever was a planned mass shooting.

You might not also recall back in 2017 when the newly installed Mayor Stoney unofficially declared Richmond a sanctuary city and would protect people that might be in this country illegally from the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He said, according to CBS6, “We need to protect our children and our families so they can learn and prosper. That means protecting all of our residents… and protecting them regardless of whether they have legal status in our country.”

The reason that these things are related is that the man falsely accused of plotting a mass shooting is wishing he had never come to Richmond or heard of Levar Stoney. If Stoney actually meant what he said that day in 2017 about protecting immigrants, then Julio Alvarado Dubon never would have been falsely accused of a mass shooting or spent the last 17 months in jail, and is now facing deportation back to Guatemala. Continue reading