Wait… what? Cut Richmond schools some slack? John Butcher, author of Cranky’s Blog, normally doesn’t have much sympathy for the City of Richmond public school system. But he notes in a recent post that the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) methodology for assessing schools is stacked against those with a higher percentage of economically disadvantaged kids. Comparing majority-white Mary Munford and William Fox elementary schools with majority-black Barack Obama and John B. Cary elementary schools, he notes that affluent Munford and Fox have significantly higher SOL pass rates. But economically disadvantaged kids at Obama and Cary out-perform economically disadvantaged kids at Munford and Fox. The Board of Education abandoned a system, the SGP, that was uncorrelated with economic status. Says he: “We are left with a reporting system that punishes schools and divisions that serve larger populations of poor students. If that is fair, I am Santa Claus.”
I wish Mike Thompson were still around to see this. Back in April, in one of his last publications, Mike Thompson, then-president of the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, issued a study concluding that hiking the tax on cigarettes rarely yielded the revenues predicted by static analysis. Now comes this story from the Richmond Free-Press: “Profits up in smoke as city merchants report hefty sales slumps since start of city cigarette taxes.” Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney expected a 50-cent-per-pack increase in cigarette taxes to yield $3.5 million in added revenue. The first month, July, collected a nifty $770,000 in taxes. After smokers got wind of the new tax, however, August collections declined 60% to $307,000. Owners are driving past Richmond convenience stores to buy cigarettes in Chesterfield County. No report on how much Richmond stores are losing in non-cigarette sales as a result. Somewhere up in heaven, Mike is smiling.
Who are you calling “inequitable,” dude? On the issue of “inequitable” school funding, I argued recently that high-poverty rural/small town localities in Virginia were taxing less than their fiscal capacity would enable them to, while more affluent school districts were taxing more, although differences in the Cost of Living between Northern Virginia localities and Rest of Virginia localities made statewide school-spending comparisons tricky. Jim Weigand, of Lynchburg, drove home the point with the following numbers:
Average teacher salary (nominal):
Alexandria — $74,664
Lynchburg — $47,476
Average teacher salary (adjusted for Cost of Living):
Alexandria — $52,361
Lynchburg — $54,073
Says Weigand: “Stop badmouthing those divisions that don’t spend as much as NOVA.”
Racism, racism, everywhere you look. The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis is at it again, using statistics to raise alarms about institutional racism. A recent blog post observes that nationally black women are about 2 to 3 times more likely to die during pregnancy or within a year after birth. “A major factor in the differences in outcomes for mothers,” states CI with no supporting evidence, “is the racial discrimination that Black women experience in everyday life and in medical settings.” I debunked those numbers back in July: The most recent Virginia data, going back to 2010, did show that black mothers were more likely to die than white mothers by a ratio of two or three to one. But (a) the number was vanishingly small — 99,957.4 of every 100,000 women — did not die, (b) 44% died from causes that had nothing to do with access to he healthcare system, (c) and that study did not adjust for risk factors such as smoking, drinking, and drugs. Is it unreasonable to ask pundits and politicians who throw around charges of racism to show how something is racist rather than inferring racism as the default explanation?
A hidden driver of K-12 spending. I’m pretty tough on Virginia’s public school system — someone needs to call B.S. on educational leadership — but schools do have real and growing challenges. One of those is the increased incidence of autism, ADHD, and mental illness among today’s youth. The schools are not making this up. Along this line, the Virginia Department of Education recently announced a five-year, $2.5 million federal grant to improve mental health services for students in six high-need school divisions: Buckingham County and the cities of Charlottesville, Hampton, Roanoke, Staunton, and Waynesboro. “The grant,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane, “will support the commonwealth’s effort to create a pipeline of high-quality mental health professionals for school divisions with the greatest needs.” As much as I hate new spending, this is probably justified.
Who’s ripping off the poor — payday lenders or do-gooders? Virginia’s small-loan statutes have “unusually week consumer protections” compared to other states, finds a new Pew Trusts research report. Virginians pay annual percentage rates on average of 251% on payday loans, three times what they do in other states. One in eight title loan borrowers has a vehicle repossessed each year, also one of the nation’s highest rates. More than 90% of the state’s more than 650 payday and title-loan stores are owned by out-of-state companies. Virginia, says Pew, needs to modernize its small-loan laws. Maybe that’s true, but Pew needs to gather a lot more proof to make its case. Here’s what Pew and other anti-payday zealots never ask: If poor/working class people can’t get payday or car-title loans, where do they go for quick cash in emergencies? Pawn shops? Loan sharks? They certainly don’t go to banks. Are lower-income Virginians better or worse off having payday and title-loan options foreclosed to them? Being poor sucks. Does it suck any less in states with tight small-loan restrictions? Show me the proof.There are currently no comments highlighted.