Author Archives: sherlockj

General Assembly Education Bills of Interest in 2022

Legacy Public School, Ashburn, Va.

by James C. Sherlock

I have reviewed the bills on the subject of education filed in this session of the General Assembly. Interesting and important legislation there, no question.

As you might expect, most of the high profile legislation was filed in the newly Republican House.

I am listing only highlights here. I have not read each bill in full, and therefore I am not sure whether or not I support them. But I intend to track them. It should prove interesting to see how each fares.

  • HB 319 Virginia Literacy Act; early student literacy, evidence-based literacy instruction, etc.
  • HB 344 Public charter schools; applications, review and approval 
  • HB 346 College partnership laboratory schools; application and establishment
  • HB 938 Public schools; evaluation & recommendations for certain current and proposed policies.
  • HB 1068 Public elementary and secondary schools; curricula and instruction.
  • SB 125 Public schools; regional charter school divisions. 
  • SB 275 Public school libraries; printed and audiovisual materials, selection, evaluation, checkout, etc.

There may be bipartisan support for at least some of these. Expansion of charter schools has some Democratic support in the Senate.

Then there is the Budget Bill developed by the Northam administration. The education components will draw a lot of scrutiny to both the money and the language.

Youngkin’s Reform Goals Threatened by the Board of Education

by James C. Sherlock

Jim Bacon yesterday was relatively pessimistic about the prospects of Governor Youngkin and his administration rolling back regulations.

The number of regulations not mandated by federal or state law is miniscule.

A mandate in law is not the only test of a regulation.

The current Virginia Board of Education’s regulations have gone well beyond the texts of the laws of Virginia to challenge parental authority and completely redesign standards and curricula in service to progressive dogma.

Most of those regulations can be modified to eliminate or change the most radical passages and still be responsive to the underlying laws as written.

The issue is that the current Board membership won’t do it. I recommend the Governor replace its membership. Continue reading

Loudoun County Public Schools Bravely Faces Its Past

The Loudoun County Public Schools administration building in Ashburn.
Times-Mirror/Trevor Baratko

by James C. Sherlock

The Loudoun Times-Mirror has run a story headlined, Report detailing LCPS’ handling of sexual assaults complete; Title IX coordinator replaced.”

“Replaced” in this case does not mean the official was fired. The official in question is still chief of staff. The Title IX assignment was kicked down the food chain to HR.

That’s it. It was an enterprise architecture problem.

This story, of course, recounted Loudoun County Public Schools’ response to the rape of two students in two different high schools by a student who was moved by the superintendent to protect his “privacy.”

Loudoun County Public Schools acknowledged on Friday it has received an outside law firm’s report examining the school division’s handling of two sexual assaults at a pair of Ashburn high schools, according to a statement.

Loudoun County Public Schools has taken action, and will continue to take action, responsive to the concerns raised by the sexual assaults in LCPS, school officials said in the statement.

“The division’s handling.” Continue reading

Government Attacks on Parental Choice in Virtual K-12 Education in Virginia. Chapter 7: Recommendations

by James C. Sherlock

Recommendations. Where to begin?

First things first. Day one, as Governor-elect Youngkin likes to say…

Stop the continued expansion of Virtual Virginia. We know hardly anything about it, and what we do know is not encouraging.

  • We don’t have Virtual Virginia kids’ SOL scores;
  • We do have parental survey data that have been less than enthusiastic about Virtual Virginia;
  • We don’t have demographic data for either its student body or its teachers; and
  • We don’t know its full financial costs.

Additional expansion is out of the question until we can fully define those parameters.

To stop the additional expansion, eliminate the line item in the Executive Budget that allows further expansion of Virtual Virginia from fees paid by the school divisions.

That will freeze the Virtual Virginia student population and its staffing at current levels until we get a handle on it. It will also leave up to $59 million in schools’ budgets over the next two years that they will not have to send to VDOE.

Crucially, it will also give time to make the more fundamental changes recommended below. Continue reading

Government Attacks on Parental Choice in Virtual K-12 Education in Virginia. Chapter 6: The State Experiments with the Educations of More than 12,000 Children

by James C. Sherlock

If parents asked their local schools for a full-time virtual K-12 (FTVK12) option for this school year, they were  presented with only the VDOE option, Virtual Virginia, unless their district runs such a program itself, as a couple of them do. 

Virtual Virginia is, thus, nearly the only virtual education option offered through the public schools.  

That option is heavily advertised to teachers and administrators using VDOE’s online seminar convening clout. No doubt there was some credit offered for watching.

It also is an experiment at the vastly increased scale — a 1,400% increase in its registrations this year — an experiment with children’s educations. Especially since we have no idea of the quality of that education.

No SOL scores have ever been published for Virtual Virginia students. In contrast, we can and have derived them from state records for MOP students. The MOP student SOL scores actually improved during COVID.

I have a few issues with this particular government experiment. Continue reading

Government Attacks on Parental Choice in Virtual K-12 Education in Virginia. Chapter 5: Driving Out Commercial Providers

by James C. Sherlock

There was plenty of VDOE-computed “capacity” in Richmond Public Schools (RPS) to accommodate out-of-district students for purposes of their being taught by the leading MOP provider.

(MOP’s are the privately-run, state-funded “Multidivision Online Providers” of educational services which are a legal option for parents of Virginia school kids.)

Then RPS suddenly cancelled its long-standing contract with that provider, eliminating that artificial “capacity.”  

RPS never laid eyes on those students.  

It registered them, got the state share of direct aid to education money that follows the students, turned the kids over to the provider, paid the invoices and kept the difference. This is a financial shell game required by the state. Continue reading

Government Attacks on Parental Choice in Virtual K-12 Education in Virginia. Chapter 4: Demand and Supply

by James C. Sherlock

The demonstrated demand this school year for publicly-funded full-time virtual K-12 (FTVK12) education in Virginia has been about 17,000 kids. 

That figure does not include the home-schooled kids ineligible for public funding support, discussed below.  

While that is a big number, it represents less than 1.5% of the 1,251,970 kids  enrolled in Virginia public schools this fall, including virtual public schools. So less than 1.5% of Virginia public school children are being educated virtually full- time at public expense.  Nationally, the maximum seen in any state in that category before this year was 2%.

This chapter will discuss issues of demand and supply in Virginia. Continue reading

Government Attacks K-12 Public Education in Virginia – Chapter 3: The Elusive Costs of the Government Option

by James C. Sherlock

The publicly funded competitors to VDOE-run Virtual Virginia provide VDOE-approved curricula and courses delivered by VDOE-certified teachers employed by highly experienced and nationally prominent companies regulated by VDOE.

You get the point: VDOE oversees its competitors. And it knows what they are paid by the government.

My very rough estimates indicate that a full-time, VDOE-run Virtual Virginia education is more expensive than a similar education provided by those private sector competitors.

But no one in the public or in government could either prove or disprove that assessment. I would call that a problem.

It would take a forensic accountant to determine the true cost of a full-time Virtual Virginia education. We should have those figures. We do not.

Neither does the government. Continue reading

Government Attacks K-12 Public Education in Virginia – Chapter 2: The Regulatory State

James Lane, Superintendent of Public Instruction under Ralph Northam

by James C. Sherlock

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) both runs its own virtual school and regulates that school’s competitors.

The Virginia way.

Mark Zuckerberg can only dream.

Virginia’s privately run, state-funded, multidivision online providers (MOPs) constitute the major competitors to VDOE’s own Virtual Virginia, its state-run virtual school.

Virginia law positions MOPs as a publicly funded option for parents.

Putting on its regulatory hat, VDOE is poised to ask the Board of Education to drive the MOPs out of the publicly funded market with regulations that significantly impact their business models and curtail parents’ incentives to register with them.

Pretty much of a two-for-one if you hate the thoughts of both:

  • public education funds going to efficient, nationally recognized private providers who educate hundreds of thousands of American children every year under this model; and
  • parental choice in education.

We know who we mean.

It appears this attempt will fail because of the results of the fall elections, but they may still be trying to slip it through. Continue reading

Government Attacks on Parental Choice in Virtual K-12 Public Education in Virginia – Chapter 1: Teacher shortages

School teacher, pre-COVID. What was that? 20 years ago?

by James C. Sherlock

A great deal of the increase in demand for full-time virtual K-12 (FTVK12) education is driven by rising teacher shortages in the brick-and-mortar schools.

I am not talking about COVID quarantine or other illnesses, but rather endemic shortages. Jobs that cannot be filled. And may never be.

We have well-founded fears that we will never have the number of young people going into teaching that we have seen in the past because of the two-track attacks on the reputation and attractiveness of the profession over the past few years.

  • The job actions of teachers unions that are featured on the nightly news continue to trash the reputation of the profession;
  • Ed-school-trained Torquemadas sit on the state Board of Education and some local School Boards and occupy too many of the division superintendent and principal’s offices. They are relentless in their attacks on the consciences of teachers with traditional values. It is driving teachers away in droves.

Those wounds will leave ugly scars that will not go away.

Add to that the unpredictability and chaos that characterize many public schools in the time of COVID.

Did I mention that we don’t pay them enough?

Good luck filling those brick-and-mortar public school teaching jobs. Continue reading

Government Attacks on Parental Choice in Virtual K-12 Public Education in Virginia: A Prologue

Legacy Elementary School, Ashburn, Va.

by James C. Sherlock

Very few like the concept of full-time online education for children. 

They do not consider it an attractive option to teachers in front of kids in brick-and-mortar school classrooms.  

Neither do I. 

They believe, and science backs, that there is considerably more value to in-person school than classroom instruction.    

But concepts are one thing; reality another.  

A full-time virtual K-12 option (FTVK12) has been available in America for two decades. Some parents, dealing with the realities of situations in which they found their own children, have chosen that option from the beginning.  

They make that choice for the same reason that parents that can both afford and have access send their kids to private schools. They find the local public school a poor setting for their kids’ educations compared to another available option.

Maybe the local public school has a history of under-performance and the parents assess that the under-performance is linked to more than just classroom instruction. Maybe their child has special needs that in the parents’ judgement could be better accommodated at home. Maybe their kid was hanging with the wrong crowd at school and they wanted to get him/her away from there for a year or two.  

Maybe a lot of reasons. Parents’ reasons. Continue reading

A Price of COPN — Sentara Pleads COVID Capacity Shortages

Sentara Norfolk General Hospital

by James C. Sherlock

Sentara Health, once described by The Washington Post as “playing COPN like a violin,”  yesterday went statewide with an acknowledgment that its system is out of capacity for many who seek its help.

On a Zoom press conference yesterday, Sentara reported seeing a huge surge in hospital admissions. Hospitalizations have more than tripled since Dec. 26. That is combined with a depletion in hospital staff caused by illness.

Dr. Jordan Asher, Sentara’s chief physician executive, said:

We take care of people that are sick. You’re coming around unvaccinated versus vaccinated does not come into play as we think about it. As resources get scarce, do you triage differently? Obviously the answer to that is yes … but we have a very strong way of going through all that, of looking at that. We’re used to that.… How we think about the utilization of resources and how we think about triaging is part of our everyday work. (Bolding added by author)

So you might find yourself on the down side of emergency room triage. Not good being you. Continue reading

Rearranging the Deck Chairs on the LCPS Board

Jeff Morse – new and previous Loudoun County School Board Chair

by James C. Sherlock

The Loudoun County School Board has announced that it has appointed Jeff Morse of the Dulles district as its new chairman for the 2022 calendar year.

Turns out Jeff was its former Chairman in 2017-2019. He was elected with five votes for and four abstentions.

But whatever works.

Jeff’s home page tells us “his youngest attends Freedom High School.” Freedom High School is the highest performing high school in Loudoun County. Freedom High’s demographics should set Jeff up to do a bang-up job once again.

Doesn’t every school in Loudoun have a student population of 81% White and Asian and 14% Black and Hispanic?

If not, sucks being them.

Good luck, Jeff.

Medical Facility State Inspector Shortfalls An Urgent Matter for the Governor and General Assembly

by James C. Sherlock

Virginians are blessed to have a person running the Department of Health Office of Licensure and Inspection (OLC) who may be the best public servant in the Commonwealth. She desperately needs help to do the work she is assigned in order to protect us.

Kim Beazley, the Director of that Office, has been quoted at length by me before. On November 30th, 2020 I published Ms. Beazley’s response to a series of FOIA requests to get an update on a 2017 Office of the State Inspector General report that found major shortfalls in the staffing levels of the OLC.

Ms. Beazley’s answers showed that nothing had changed in three years.

The shortfalls were based upon laws and budgets that purposely reduced the authorized staff significantly below that sufficient to meet its statutory inspection requirements. Continue reading

Another Brick in the Wall Around Sentaraland

by James C. Sherlock

Which one of these doesn’t match?

Story in Virginia Business Dec. 20:

EVMS, ODU and Sentara sign health center agreement.

Eastern Virginia Medical School, Old Dominion University and Sentara Healthcare entered into a memorandum of understanding Friday to work toward a collaborative academic health center….

That’s right. EVMS and ODU are state institutions. Sentara just acts like one. Is anyone at the Virginia Department of Health interested in this?

The Attorney General’s Office should have been up to its neck in this agreement, probably to nix it. Continue reading