Author Archives: sherlockj

VDOE’s Plan to Impose Social Reconstructionist Dogma on School Children

OK, kids, raise your hand if you can spell  i-n-d-o-c-t-r-i-n-a-t-i-o-n.

by James C. Sherlock

The 2020 General Assembly required the Virginia Department of Education to develop and publish standards for Social Emotional Learning (SEL) that start in Kindergarten and go through 12th grade.

VDOE has done so, disregarding entirely hundreds of comments on Virginia Town Hall on the draft of those standards that had a 10-to-one negative-to-positive ratio.

Town Hall in theory allows citizens to influence regulations. VDOE changed not one word from the draft.

Good news:  Virginia school divisions are not required to adopt the standards — yet. Bad news: Some will. Continue reading

Three More Proposals to Reduce Gun Violence in Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

There was extensive commentary on my post yesterday that recommended expanded use of stop and frisk in an attempt to reduce gun violence. Given the demonstrated interest in the subject, I offer three suggestions that go further.

Increase federal prosecutions. Federal laws, penalties, detention hearings and prosecutions are a far more formidable deterrent to street use of guns than their state and local counterparts.

Virginia should increase its referrals of firearms violations to federal authorities in the same manner and using the same joint task forces as it does with drug violations.

Criminals do not have to be rocket scientists to understand the differences in consequences between prosecutions under state or local laws vs. federal firearms laws. Their lawyers will explain it to them.

Let Virginia Attorneys General prosecute gun crimes directly without local concurrence. The far left is conflicted between their hatred of guns and their desire to reduce prison populations. When they speak of gun control, they generally do not mean no bail and heavy sentences for gun crimes.

I will go out on a limb and suggest that perhaps a woke Commonwealth’s Attorney plea bargaining a felony gun crime down to a misdemeanor is not the way to reduce gun violence. Continue reading

Understaffed Police Departments, Skyrocketing Gun Violence and “Stop and Frisk”

by James C. Sherlock

The print edition of The Virginian-Pilot today ran the story we commented on yesterday on the surge in gun violence killing children in Norfolk. The headline in the online version:

Nearly a dozen children were shot in July in Norfolk. Communities are hurting, and activists want change.

None of the nearly 2,200 words of the article mentioned stop and frisk. The referenced “activists” oppose stop and frisk as unavoidably linked to racial profiling. Courts disagree.

But I suspect that The Virginian-Pilot considers it off limits to even bring up.

It is one of the most fundamental policing techniques for reducing gun violence. In 2011, the NYPD arrested 82,286 persons as a result of stop and frisk encounters. Mike Bloomberg was mayor. The use of stop and frisk has plummeted since then under Mayor DeBlasio.

Those concerned with urban violence have a right to be concerned.  The past few years of political turmoil over policing has resulted in increasing shortages of officers and reductions in street policing. The direct results: more guns on the street, more killings of the innocent. Continue reading

Will Liability Insurers Drive School Mask Policies?

by James C. Sherlock

California has imposed a school mask mandate for the fall.  Virginia has not — yet.

California shows us some of the implications. In that state, the mandate has produced varying reactions.  Reporting in Education Week has illuminated some of those. Continue reading

No PAC for Disaster Preparedness and Response

Why is this man smiling?

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia’s responses to COVID were a continuing national embarrassment. 

  • Individual Virginia department and agencies had no operational pandemic response plans. They ignored specific and prescient directions to build and exercise such plans in the dormant Virginia Pandemic Emergency Plan. VDEM then attempted a coverup.
  • No PPE stockpiles. Last in testing. Last in vaccinations. Hospitals first, physicians last in every decision by the VDH. 
  • Last in distribution of unemployment checks. 
  • The General Assembly was given and took no role in pandemic response for 15 months.
  • The Canterbury nursing home scandal. State nursing home inspections that failed to report staffing shortages. The directly related shortages in staffing of state inspectors.
  • The failure to sanction teachers unions for strike threats in Northern Virginia during COVID. The officially sanctioned lapse in school accountability.
  • Poorly prepared official press conferences that often added confusion rather than clarity.

This was in its totality the biggest government scandal in Virginia history.

Continue reading

“Model Polices” on Transgender Students vs. Laws Guaranteeing Parental Rights

by James C. Sherlock

Emilio Jaksetic wrote an excellent article this morning.

Mr. Jaksetic, a lawyer, commented on the decision by Judge J. Frederick Watson of the 24th Judicial Circuit of Virginia, to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the Virginia Board of Education’s Model Policies for the Treatment of Transgender Students in Virginia’s Public Schools for lack of standing.  The judge did not rule on the substantive merits of lawsuit.

So, Christian Action Network did not have standing. I also believe that it sued under the wrong theory of law and in the wrong court. I told them so at the time.

One basic flaw in Model Policies is that it specifically permits portions of educational records to be withheld from parents by school personnel. That was not challenged by the Christian Action Network suit.

Yet it appears to be illegal under both federal and state laws.

School boards should take actions on Model Policies only with qualified legal advice. Continue reading

Congrats UVa Health and Centra – the Right Kind of Healthcare Affiliation

by James C. Sherlock

Centra Health

Now for a kind word for my undergraduate alma mater, the University of Virginia.

In a press release yesterday, Lynchburg-based Centra and UVA Health announced a strategic clinical affiliation.

From what we know from the announcement, that is exactly the kind of healthcare affiliation Virginians need. Continue reading

COVID School Closure Learning Losses in K-12 Students – a Generational Catastrophe

by James C. Sherlock

I have written here extensively about the pre-COVID state of learning in Virginia’s public schools and my concerns about COVID school closure learning losses exacerbating the issue.

Those learning losses have come to pass.

McKinsey & Company just published a study of the results from Curriculum Associates testing.  That in-school sample consisted of 1.6 million K–6 students in mathematics and 1.5 million in reading. The sampling that required in-school testing favored states that opened earliest for in-person schooling.

The outcomes were hugely troubling. Continue reading

In Virginia, Only Inova, UVa Health and VA Hospitals Mandate Vaccinations for Staff

by James C. Sherlock

Among large Virginia health systems, only Inova, UVa Health and VA Medical Centers appear currently to mandate staff vaccinations.

Inova is the only one of those that is private.

On Monday, a Joint Statement in Support of COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates for All Workers in Health and Long-Term Care was issued by a long list of signatories including the American Medical Association (AMA), American Nurses Association (ANA); and the American Public Health Association (APHA):

“We call for all health care and long-term care employers to require their employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.”

It is a coordinated plea.

The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, the lobbyist for non-profit hospitals in Virginia, on July 18 published a statement encouraging its own members to take action: Continue reading

What Would We Do Without Experts and “People Familiar with the Matter”?

by James C. Sherlock

Headline:

“The CDC is expected to recommend that fully vaccinated people begin wearing masks indoors again in places with high Covid-19 transmission rates, according to people familiar with the matter.”

Einstein had it right.

But, then, he went to in-person school.

Hopewell Public Schools Blazing a Trail for At-Risk Children

by James C. Sherlock

In 2015, over 2 million U.S. students attended school on year-round schedules every year in around 3,000 schools in 46 states. Half of those were in California, four-fifths in Western states.

Hopewell school district joined them on Monday in the first district-wide implementation of a year-round public school schedule in Virginia.

Hopewell has two goals:

  1. avoid the traditional summer learning losses that plague many at-risk school children;
  2. provide a broader range of educational opportunities to increase the motivation of teachers and students

The Hopewell City public school district has a total student population lower than either one of a couple of Fairfax County secondary schools, so it is small enough to manage this change if leaders, teachers and parents support it.

They have that support so far.  The Governor and First Lady attended a ceremony celebrating the initiative. and good for them.

Hopewell schools and all Virginians need this to work. Continue reading

What? No Amendments Permitted to a $4.3 Billion Budget Bill?

Delegate Luke Torian, D-Woodbridge

by James C. Sherlock

Del. Luke Torian, D-Woodbridge, the Chair of the Appropriations Committee in the House of Delegates, has announced that there will be no member amendments allowed for the budget that the governor sends down during the upcoming special session.

Three things about that:

  1.  Torian is the king of budget amendments. Look at all of the amendments that he permitted/authored on education and healthcare policy in the past two sessions on what were supposed to be a budget bill. He was also the one that orchestrated the tabling in his committee of the Health Enterprise Zone bill that passed overwhelmingly in the policy committee among other examples;
  2. It is not clear that his ruling is either Constitutional or practical; and
  3. The budget bill will spend $4.3 billion.

Article VI of the Constitution of Virginia grants legislative power to the General Assembly. Torian’s ruling subordinates the General Assembly to the Governor for this session.

It also seems to make no sense. Continue reading

The Impact of English Language Learners on Virginia Public Schools

by James C. Sherlock

We will briefly discuss here English learners in Virginia schools and the enormous impact they have. They truly offer to enrich the experience of all kids in our schools, but they need a lot of help and there are a great many of them.

There were 104,411 English learner students enrolled in Virginia public schools in 2020-21, about 8% of the total enrollment. See the breakdown by school division here.

That was down more than 12,000 from the year before, perhaps reflecting COVID-related failures to register for school rather than leaving the state. We are about to find out. 

The 2019-20 numbers represented a 44% increase in 10 years.

The huge influx of kids on our southern border this year will affect these numbers next month, but we have no idea how much because we don’t know where they have gone.

A lot of these kids, in addition to the challenges of language barriers, are also what are designated Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education (SLIFE). VDOE does not yet collect data on that sub-group.

It is easy to predict that those kids may have had a harder time with remote learning than native English speakers. In recognition of that problem, English learners were given priority for return to school in person in some districts. Continue reading

J.D. Vance, the “Childless Left” and the Commonwealth of Virginia Education Elite

by James C. Sherlock

J. D. Vance, the author of the acclaimed biographical work “Hillbilly Elegy,” is a candidate for the Republican nomination in Ohio to replace retiring Republican Senator Rob Portman.

I haven’t studied that Senate race, and don’t have a favorite, but Mr. Vance has raised an issue for our time.

He has last week called out “the childless left” for their lack of “physical commitment to the future of this country.” From the N.Y. Post:

“The left isn’t just criticizing our country … it’s trying to take our very sense of national pride and national purpose away from us,” he said, blaming figures such as Vice President Kamala Harris, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, along with AOC, for stoking “cultural wars.”

“Harris has called herself the “momala” of her two grown stepchildren, Cole and Ella Emhoff.  Booker, Buttigieg, and Ocasio-Cortez have no children.”

“Vance offered a startling solution to what he called the “civilizational crisis”: extra voting power for parents.”

“The Democrats are talking about giving the vote to 16-year-olds,” Vance said.”

“Instead, he said, “Let’s give votes to all children in this country, but let’s give control over those votes to the parents of the children.”

“Doesn’t this mean that parents get a bigger say in how democracy functions? … Yes,” he concluded.”

I don’t agree with Mr. Vance’s broad prescription for calibrated voting rights.  I don’t think he does either. In fact I believe that Mr. Vance, a Yale Law School graduate, used that statement to bring public attention to the issue rather than expecting his specified outcome. But I think it may be appropriate to consider his point in a narrower context in Virginia. Continue reading

How Bad Are Virginia Public Schools’ Personnel Shortages?

by James C. Sherlock

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) maintains a job board for itself and for school districts seeking personnel of all sorts. It shows about 1,6oo openings, but some of the postings are more than two years old. And the real number is somewhere around 7,000.

It is useless.

Apparently VDOE, in its striving under the whip hand of the Governor and General Assembly to regulate and oversee the minute details of school division compliance with massive changes to laws, lacks the personnel or inclination to keep its own job board up to date. Embarrassing.

So, VDOE may have no estimate what the shortages will be next month.  If it does, it is not sharing.

The current signs are not good. Continue reading