Author Archives: sherlockj

Personnel Shortages that Plague Virginia’s Health Facilities Inspection Staff in the Hands of Budget Negotiators

UVa Hospital

by James C. Sherlock

One of the most important responsibilities of Virginia state government is to inspect medical facilities and home care providers to ensure we are safe when we enter their care.

It continues to fail in that responsibility thanks to years of Virginia budgets that have consciously ignored the need for increased inspector staff and increased salaries with which to competitively hire that staff.

I have reported for a long time that the staffing of the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) Office of Licensing and Certification (OLC) is scandalously deficient. Based upon an update today from OLC, it remains so.

That organization has only half of the inspectors it needs to carry out its defined responsibilities.

Those highly skilled and very dedicated people, largely registered nurses, are asked to do every day for Virginians what we cannot do for ourselves and what our elected representatives have refused for decades to properly fund them to do.

Think of that next time you use the facilities and home providers they are required for your safety to inspect.

We hope the current General Assembly budget negotiators keep it in mind for themselves and their families.

Or the Governor sends the budget back until they do. Continue reading

Progressive Takeover of Educational Institutions – Virginia PTA Edition

Virginia PTA President Pamela Croom

by James C. Sherlock

The Richmond Times Dispatch published an article on Sunday about a Virginia PTA (VAPTA) conference at Atlee High School in Mechanicsville.

Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera spoke to the attendees about the administration’s recent education report.

That report assessed that Black and Hispanic students from impoverished families had entered COVID with major academic disadvantages and then suffered the worst learning losses during COVID.

She affirmed the administration’s commitment “to ensure that there is access to quality education for every child in Virginia.”

Virginia PTA President Pamela Croom in that same article was quoted:

VAPTA is still evaluating Thursday’s report.

If there’s concern about how our children are actually performing in school then we need to look at how we are funding our schools and making sure we are fully funding our schools.

“If” there is a concern, the solution is money.

That motivated me to take a look at the profiles of the leadership of Ms. Croom’s Virginia PTA. They are nowhere to be found. A previous web page on board structure has been removed and not replaced.

So, we do not know who the VAPTA board members are, how they are elected or how their positions on various issues are derived. Let’s look at what we do know. Continue reading

Progressive Dogma Untethered to Results – Voter Laws Edition

by James C. Sherlock

The armies of the progressive left are what the great political scientist George Edwards called “Prisoners of Their Premises.” Many persons and institutions are captives, to a greater or lesser degree.

Lesser is better in this case. Mistakes flow from the best of intentions. You can learn from them or repeat them.

The United States military late in the Vietnam war mandated and then made a science out of analyzing its mistakes in order to learn from them.

At the unit level, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines debrief after every training and combat mission. At higher levels the reviews are periodic, but also professionally honest. Combat training schools capture, but do not enshrine those lessons. Because there is always a next time, newer equipment, newer force compositions, newer enemies and newer lessons.

It is the only way to improve systematically.

Many progressives, in solitary confinement with their dogma, are often wrong but always certain. When their policy prescriptions fail to provide the predicted results, which is most of the time, outcomes are ignored or blamed on outside factors beyond their control. Core beliefs, unchallenged, are undisturbed.

Consider for illustration recent voting law changes. Continue reading

Two News Organizations Report on the Youngkin Administration Initiative to Improve K-12 Outcomes

by James C. Sherlock

I submit for your review two articles about the report of the Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction, “Our Commitment to Virginians”.

The first is by Sarah Rankin of the Associated Press.

The other is by Hannah Natanson of The Washington Post.

Both review the same report.  Both are presented as news not opinion.

That report promises broad attempts to improve the education of all Virginia public school children. I suggest that is what we employ a Superintendent of Public Instruction to do.

Read both stories and the report in question. Make the effort a Rorschach test.

What do you see?

Virginia Supreme Court Gives Hope to Competitors of Regional Healthcare Monopolies

Reese Jackson, CEO, Chesapeake Regional Medical Center

Is the Virginia Antitrust Act now in play?

by James C. Sherlock

There is good news this morning for those of us hoping for more competition to regional healthcare monopolies in Virginia.

The Virginia Supreme Court (the Court) overturned the decision of the State Health Commissioner to deny the application of the Chesapeake Regional Medical Center (CRMC) to create an open heart surgical service.

Sentara Health, unsurprisingly, objected to the application and was a party to the case before the Court. It also had been a party to the hearing by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) COPN (Certificate of Public Need) adjudication officer. That official then made a recommendation against CRMC that the health commissioner accepted. The court found his decision to be fatally flawed.

The Court remanded the original decision to the new health commissioner for re-consideration. In doing so, it overturned decisions by the Chesapeake Circuit Court (made by a visiting Norfolk judge who failed to disclose a conflict of interest) and by the appeals court that upheld that original decision.

The court found that the health commissioner made an error of law and that the courts erred in both:

  • deferring to the heath commissioner for interpretation of his agency’s own regulations without rigorous review of those regulations by the courts; and
  • applying the harmless error doctrine to that error of law.  

Continue reading

Richmond Public Schools, VSU, VUU Teacher Residency Initiative is Promising

RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras

by James C. Sherlock

The Richmond Public Schools RVA Men Teach program has partnered with Virginia State and Virginia Union Universities to create a HBCU (Historically Black College/University) Teacher Residency program for male minority teachers.

As a long time observer and sometime critic of RPS, I congratulate it and the two universities for this initiative.

The benefits for minority children, and in fact all children, of having male role models in their classrooms are both self evident and well documented.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has reported that about 76% of public school teachers were female and 24% were male in 2017–18, with a lower percentage of male teachers at the elementary school level (11%) than at the secondary school level (36%).

This RPS/VUU/VSU initiative represents a promising effort to increase the supply of male teachers. I congratulate them for it. Continue reading

A Seat at the Table — State and Local Advisory Boards in Virginia Need Ideological Balance

Willow Woycke, president of the Transgender Education Association

by James C. Sherlock

One of the opportunities offered by investigative journalism that is denied to the average citizen is to observe appointed government advisory boards in action.

It has been enlightening, but almost always disappointing. The way the members of appointed boards are generally selected in Virginia is an artifact of a political spoils system.

Take education. Action boards such as the state Board of Education and local school boards have tended to appoint one-sided advisory panels and, unsurprisingly, get one-sided advice as a single option for public policy.

Minority ideas seldom make their way into the draft policies that advisory boards prepare. That in turn results in bad public policy. We need as a matter of some urgency to do better.

I urge the Youngkin administration to take the lead and change this tradition in state government. Continue reading

Relentless Promotion of Transsexuality in Children – Fairfax County School Board Edition

Willow Woycke, president of the Transgender Education Association

by James C. Sherlock

Family Life Education – Board of Education Guidelines and
Standards of Learning for Virginia Public Schools, updated in 2020 by a famously progressive Virginia Board of Education, requires:

A plan for teaching sensitive content in gender-separated classes shall be announced publicly.

Current Fairfax County School Board Regulation 3204.9 Effective 09/15/2020 requires both elementary and middle school Family Life Education classes to be gender-separate.

Those rules apparently are now judged to be insufficiently progressive in Fairfax County. Headline:

Fairfax County school board debates mixing genders in 4th-8th grade sex education classes.

Continue reading

Why Not Virginia for Semiconductor Manufacturing Expansion?

Virginia Engineering Programs

by James C. Sherlock

Among the things that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has made clear is the vulnerability of Taiwan and with it, the access of the U.S. economy to the 90% of advanced computer chips manufactured there.

The national security requirement for domestic chip manufacturing brings opportunity. It is the nation’s most urgent manufacturing priority. So, why not build the needed plants in Virginia? Is the Commonwealth organized to attract those investments?

For the answer to the last question I looked at the Virginia Department of Commerce and Industry, the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) and Virginia’s engineering schools and found nothing to suggest Virginia is making an organized effort.

Much of Virginia’s headline effort in engineering education is to expand opportunities for Amazon workers in Northern Virginia.

I suggest Virginia focus its Department of Commerce and Trade on chip manufacturing, create dedicated educational consortiums, identify available facilities and workforces like those of the shuttered Rolls Royce plant in Prince George County and offer tax abatement packages to actively recruit semiconductor manufacture. Continue reading

Charter School Lessons for the Youngkin Administration from the New York Times

by James C. Sherlock

Probably surprising to many of my readers, one of the newspapers to which I subscribe is The New York Times. Another is The Washington Post.

Of the two, the Times demonstrates far more balance in its reporting. Not opinion – reporting.

Times education writers, direct witnesses to the astonishing achievements of New York City charter schools and their huge waiting lists, can be counted on to investigate and report stories that openly disregard progressive orthodoxy on such schools.

They reported on May 13 (adjacent picture) that opposition to charter schools disadvantages primarily poor minority children and is driving the support of poor and minority parents away from the Democratic party.

That is the message I have been trying to bring to the Youngkin administration. Continue reading

Fairfax County Declines Assistance in Protecting Supreme Court Justices as Unconstitutional

By James C. Sherlock

Jeffrey McKay

The Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, a career progressive politician unburdened by a law degree, has declared Fairfax County’s support of federal authorities in execution of federal law to be unconstitutional.

Not unaffordable; not wrong; but unconstitutional.

He offered that opinion to justify his decision that the Fairfax County police will not help the federal government protect three Supreme Court Justices who live in the county.

Nonsense.  That is not the reason.

The Justices who live in the county are all conservatives – Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett and Clarence Thomas – under attack by the left and threatened with personal harm.

That is the reason.

If Justice Kagan had a home in Fairfax County and was threatened, the FCPD would stand up a new division to protect her.  The perimeter would be a half mile in every direction.

Continue reading

The Fall of the Regional Press in Virginia – Virginian-Pilot Edition

By James C. Sherlock

One of my morning newspapers is The Virginian-Pilot.   It used to be an outstanding regional newspaper. Shrunken to a sliver of its former self, it is no longer.

Small size need not compromise integrity, but it has in this case.

The Pilot unapologetically accepts, apparently without review, wire service reports on national news based entirely on the alignment of the stories with the political narrative the Pilot supports.   With no concern for accuracy.

Readers look in vain for stories unhelpful to the left.

A front page story by Lisa Mascaro of the Associated Press was headlined today:

Defense of Roe falls to filibuster.  GOP senators block vote on bill to secure access to abortion

Regardless of one’s personal view on the subject of abortion, the headline and the story below it were false.

Continue reading

Richmond Punts Again on Unionization Ordinance

By James C. Sherlock

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney

The Richmond City Council still has not decided whether to accept Mayor Stoney’s plan for unionization.

He has submitted an ordinance that would let Richmond walk before it runs and maintain the sensible management controls he has laid out in a draft ordinance.

Basically, he is OK with negotiating pay and benefits as long as those contracts are phased in, but he wants working conditions under management controls.

The City Council is under pressure from a strong faction to pass an alternate ordinance that permits unionization of all employees immediately and strips management of many of its rights as specified in the mayor’s bill.

The mayor has submitted his draft budget for FY 23 without the advantage of a submittal from the school board.  The school board declines to estimate the costs of the full unionization it has already approved.

By rule, Richmond City Council then studies the content of the mayor’s draft, develops applicable amendments, and adopts a balanced budget by the annual deadline of May 31.

I have what I hope is a reasonable question.

How are they doing that without a definition of the city’s path to unionization, its pace, and thus its costs.  And no school board input?

Continue reading

Improving Petersburg Public Health is a State Issue as Well as a Local and Personal Responsibility

By James C. Sherlock

The RTD today published an article “Petersburg is Virginia’s least healthy locality, and money is a big reason why” about one of my favorite subjects – the stubborn health problems in Petersburg and other poor urban areas of Virginia.

The story references the latest annual study from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute that ranks localities in Virginia from 1 to 133 in both health outcomes and health factors.

Residents of Petersburg, where the median household income is among the lowest in the state, face a life expectancy of only 66.2 years, the lowest in the state and 10 years worse than the national average, according to a study from the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute that was circulated by the Virginia Department of Health.

It has ranked as the state’s least healthy locality in eight of the past 10 years.

The RTD headline attibutes those results to lack of money.   But the headline is nonsense.

We can and should do far better with the government assets and funded programs already in place to help Petersburg.

Continue reading

Planning for Telecommuting’s Effects on Virginia

By James C. Sherlock

I think that we don’t yet realize the full impact of the revolution being wrought by the telecommuting that accelerated during COVID.

Virginia Railway Express Route Map

I am sure I don’t.  But Virginians, and our state and local governments, must try to figure it out.

We are moving towards a world in which white collar workers will be increasingly exempt from commutes.

We have already seen during COVID the leading edge of the migration of workers and their families away from many of America’s cities, especially those with increasing crime, closed businesses and otherwise lowered quality of life.

Look at New York City.  I visited it a couple of months ago.  Many places I used to enjoy have become an urban wasteland.  D.C. is not far behind.

Virginia urban areas and some of our suburbs have experienced COVID-related business failures and are threatened with more that result from the lifestyle changes that COVID brought.

The attractions in these places are not directly related to employment, but rather to population density. Restaurants, night life and the arts were exposed by COVID as vulnerable.  Some people got out of the habit of centering their social lives on them.

The costs of cities and suburbs, especially housing, are less and less affordable.  Prices have continued to increase in the face of fast-rising mortgage rates (Note 1).  This cannot continue, so it will not.

Other Virginia locations that offer attractive lifestyles, lower costs of living and the communications infrastructure to support telecommuting with bandwidth and speed at scale can expect to see in-migration and its economic benefits if they both prepare for and solicit them.

The knock-on effects may prove far-reaching.  I will offer a few of them for consideration.  Virginia state and local governments will either plan to accommodate them or be run over by effects which, planned for or not, they cannot control.

Continue reading