Category Archives: Charity and philanthropy

Virginia Needs Better Information Sharing to Provide Mandated Public Services to Illegals Efficiently and Effectively

by James C. Sherlock

I am on record as a persistent advocate of improving the quality of both schools and medical services for poor and minority citizens. It has been the main focus of my work for years.

In a directly related matter, we read, with different reactions depending upon our politics, of the struggles with uncontrolled immigration on border states on the one hand and D.C, New York City and Los Angeles on the other.

We are treated to the public spectacle of the mayors of sanctuary cities deploring massive new influxes of illegal border-crossers and asking for federal assistance. It provides one of the best object lessons in being careful what you ask for in recent public life.

All of that is interesting, but Virginians know that the problem is increasing. They know Virginia can’t fix it, and they want to know how Virginia will deal with it.

By law we owe illegals services. And we need to provide them efficiently and effectively both for humanitarian reasons and to ensure that citizens are not unnecessarily negatively affected.

There is work to do. Continue reading

Where Does Virginia Most Need Charter Schools?

by James C. Sherlock

Discussing failing schools in Virginia, people tend to speak in generalities. When an example is needed, the City of Richmond Public Schools is chosen — an uncontested layup.

But failed schools are not a problem just in Richmond. And bad public schools in Richmond are not limited to RPS. They are a problem to which VDOE has paid lip service, hamstrung by Virginia law and constitution when trying to fulfill federal mandates with federal money.

I will be very specific about schools and school divisions and the potential to help those children with professionally-run charter schools. Currently not a single one of the six or so charter schools in Virginia is managed by a successful charter management organization (CMO).

The most useful public list that we have at the moment for this discussion is the 2020-21 VDOE list of “Schools Identified for Support and Improvement under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).”

I will use that list to offer specificity to a Governor who wants to help. Continue reading

The Governor’s Tuition Freeze Request and the Board at UVa – It’s Complicated

Signatures from the first meeting recorded in the Minute Book of the UVa board of visitors, May 5, 1817 – ALBERT AND SHIRLEY SMALL SPECIAL COLLECTIONS LIBRARY, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA

by James C. Sherlock

Much has been made of a recent request by Governor Glenn Youngkin to eliminate a tuition increase at the University of Virginia and the Board’s decision not to honor it.

The tensions between means and ends that have to be resolved in producing a budget at any large and complex university are enormous.

UVa has implemented a Responsibility Center Management (RCM) budget model.

An RCM budget model decentralizes decision-making, provides incentives for innovation, and improves overall financial results and stewardship. It couples distributed program responsibility with meaningful authority over resources.

A central RCM budget product is thus fragile, in that changes have far reaching effects unpredictable at the board level. The later the changes, the bigger the disruptions.

The Governor’s request, while appropriate to his goal to help parents deal with inflation, arrived just before the start of the fiscal year. The board judged it to be too late to be accommodated.

This is the story of the budgeting process that drove that decision and why the endowment could not be used to fund the difference.  I think elements of this may prove be informative to all who send their kids off to college. Continue reading

How are Virginians Preparing for the Coming Food Price Shocks?

by James C. Sherlock

Virginians have only begun to experience price inflation at the grocery store.

Price increases are in the food pipeline that will be a much bigger problem starting this summer.

Farmers and ranchers invest up front. They borrow money to do it. They are incredibly efficient at what they do, but are at the mercy of input prices. They must wait until their crops and animals are sold to recoup their investments.

Everything farmers and ranchers do with their farm machinery requires diesel. So do the trucks that move crops to those who prepare them for our use and then to market. Diesel prices are expected to reach more than $6 per gallon this summer, a 35% increase from current prices. Inventories are low.

Most fertilizer is an oil derivative and has skyrocketed up to 300% since early 2021. On average, fertilizer in March of this year was 35% more expensive than it was in the fall of 2021, with Roundup up nearly 90%. In six months.

Of course, the feed ranchers buy for their animals comes from the produce of America’s farmers.

Producer prices that reflect what they have paid for diesel and fertilizer and the trucking costs of moving those crops are predicted to reach grocery stores in the summer and fall. That hardly suggests that the 9% inflation recently seen in retail food prices is the end of it.

It is important to ask what our governments and our best charities are doing to prepare. Continue reading

Fix the Virginia Department of Health

Credit: PBS Healthcare Management

by James C. Sherlock

Governor Youngkin and his new administration have an opportunity to fix crucial problems in the Department of Health that have been festering for decades.

The issues:

  • How can Virginia regulate effectively its state-created healthcare monopolies?
  • In a directly related matter, how can we fix the failures, famously demonstrated during COVID, of the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) in its other missions ?

The power of Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) to control the business of healthcare in Virginia was the original sin.  Giving that power to the Department of Health made it worse.

From that point VDH was the agent of its own corruption. Never charged by the General Assembly to create regional monopolies in its administration of Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) law, VDH did so anyway.

Actions have consequences.

Now those regional healthcare monopolies are each the largest private business in their regions, have achieved political dominance in Richmond, and effectively control VDH. Continue reading

Youngkin Donated His Salary to Charity. Sore Losers Complain.

by Kerry Dougherty

We all understand that Virginia Democrats are smarting. They honestly believed that Virginia was a blue state and they could nominate a sleazy Clinton-crony retread and still win the governor’s race.

They lost and their criticism of Governor Glenn Youngkin borders on derangement.

Would it kill them to be gracious? To put aside their bitterness long enough to give Youngkin props when he does something undeniably good?

If not that, how about if they just shut up and drop the petty partisanship for a few days?

No sooner had Youngkin announced this week that he was donating his first quarter salary to the Virginia Law Enforcement Assistance Program, an organization “dedicated to helping law enforcement officers and first responders who have undergone traumatic critical incidents in the line of duty or inter personal lives” than the sniping began. Continue reading

The Richmond Times Dispatch, “Hate Groups” and Journalism

by James C. Sherlock

The Hanover County School Board (HCSB) is seeking legal assistance in reviewing its transgender policy from the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative legal organization that provides its services pro bono.

ADF’s key values that it goes to court to defend are religious freedom, free speech, marriage and family, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.  It has  won 80% of its court cases and played a role in 64 victories at the United States Supreme Court.

The HCSB, the target of an ACLU lawsuit, wants to know if their transgender policy is defensible in court.  ADF offered to review the policy and advise on modifications if any and a defensive strategy for free.

Seems reasonable.

But not to the Richmond Times Dispatch (RTD). Continue reading

COPN’s Regional Monopolies Helped Boost Virginia Hospitals’ Operating Margins to more than 3x National Median in 2020

by James C. Sherlock

Virginians have been assured forever by the hospital lobby that the non-profit regional monopolies established and protected by COPN nearly everywhere but Richmond:

  • are benign public servants with a charitable mission;
  • certainly don’t drive up costs;
  • that competition does not matter;
  • that the State Medical Facilities Plan on which COPN is based, like government 5-year industrial plans everywhere, is both well- managed and prescient; and
  • that limiting capacity is the key to cost containment. (It turned out that limiting capacity was also the key to hospitals being overwhelmed by COVID. Clearly disaster preparedness is not among COPN criteria.)

Well. The median operating margin for Virginia’s 106 hospitals in 2020, the latest year for which data are available, was 9.2%. Nationally, that margin was 2.7%.

Virginians paid over $1.5 billion more for hospital visits than they would have if our hospitals had cumulatively posted a 3% operating margin, which has been at or near the national median  for years. Continue reading

VMI Alumnus Redirects Intended $900,000 Gift

by James A. Bacon

Colleges and universities have long been prone to clashes between strong-willed presidents and prominent alumni. Over the years there have been numerous well-publicized episodes of donors retracting their benefactions after some run-in with the forces of political correctness. But as “wokeness” becomes the prevailing ideology on many college campuses, and as many alumni have decided they’re mad as hell and aren’t going to take it anymore, these episodes are occurring with ever-greater frequency.

One such incident occurred at the Virginia Military Institute in connection with Governor Ralph Northam’s recent speech at the Institute. On Nov. 14, an alumnus sent the following email (bold face in the original) to Superintendent Cedric Wins and other figures in the VMI leadership:

Good evening. I am a 198- [date redacted] VMI graduate. Two requests, please:

  1. Please immediately cancel Ralph Northam’s speech at VMI Monday, 15 November. He’s a disgrace and a woke buffoon. Don’t subject the Corps of Cadets to his lunacy.
  2. If you won’t accommodate request number one above, then please make his talk optional and not mandatory for the Corps of Cadets. Continue reading

This Tax Credit Saves the State $8.5 Million

Source: “Scholarship Tax Credits in Virginia”

by James A. Bacon

The Virginia Education Improvement Scholarship Tax Credit Program, which provides state tax credits for charitable donations to approved foundations, saves the Commonwealth $1.78 for every $1.00 in lost tax revenue, concludes a study by Richmond-based Mangum Economics.

In tax year 2019, reduced public school enrollment generated $19.5 million in state savings with a net positive fiscal impact of $8.5 million after accounting for the lost tax revenue, according to the study, “Scholarship Tax Credits in Virginia.

The study was sponsored by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy (TJI), Virginia Council for Private Education, McMahon Parater Scholarship Foundation, Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia Catholic Conference, Anna Julia Cooper School, Virginia Jewish Day Schools, Association of Christian Schools International, and Renewanation. Continue reading

Virginians’ Money and Our Tax-Exempt “Public Charity” Healthcare Monopolies

The Business of Healthcare

by James C. Sherlock

A generally accepted rule of thumb for the minimum profitability required for a hospital to maintain operations and fund its future is 3%.

Virginia’s community hospitals as a group in 2019 had an operating margin of 10%. Most of them are filed with federal and state governments as not-for-profit public charities and are untaxed at any level of government.

I yesterday wrote a  column that disclosed 34% increases in the 2019 profitability of Virginia hospitals that were generated by taxpayer funds sent directly to the hospitals through Medicaid expansion and increases in Medicaid payments passed by the General Assembly in 2018.

There were several good reasons for Medicaid expansion. Better access for the poor. Financial stability for rural hospitals. I was for Medicaid expansion myself, and Republican votes put it over the top. Continue reading

Good Neighbors

Shu-Jin Wu

by Kerry Dougherty

In these hyper-partisan pandemic times it often seems we will never come together as a country.

We are too far apart politically. We spend too much time insulting each other. We can’t agree on the simplest things. We’re sick of the pandemic, divided about restrictions and gloomy about the future.

Even the vaccine isn’t bringing us the joy it should because know-it-all doctors on TV warn that nothing must change — masks, distancing, gatherings — once we’re fully vaccinated.

Some of us thought the point of a vaccine was a return to normalcy.

Sigh.

But then Saturday happened and once again, I was buoyed by the basic kindness and generosity of Americans. Especially my neighbors in Virginia Beach. Continue reading

Probably a Coincidence – COPN, the Monopolization of Health Care and the Marginalization of the Poor

by James C. Sherlock

The Business of Healthcare in Virginia

I have been asked many times about how freer markets in healthcare can coexist with our need to treat the poor. I will try to briefly cover some of the complexities of the answer to that question.

And I will show that of all of the government healthcare control systems, COPN is the only one that has proven to disproportionally hurt poor and minority populations by its decisions and their effects.  

And it does so by design. Continue reading

COPN Scores a Kill

by James C. Sherlock

More than eleven months ago I wrote an essay titled, “The Legal Corruption of (Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need) COPN.” That system needs overhaul, not adjustment, and the people of Hampton Roads need help.  The Governor needs to lead in both efforts.

Today I offer the third in a series (first two here and here ) of essays providing background and potential future solutions to the closure of Bon Secours DePaul Hospital in Norfolk.

This is the story of the public, state-sponsored execution of DePaul and a simultaneous attempt to create a bleak future for Bon Secours in Hampton Roads.

COPN mortally wounded that hospital in 2008. It lasted until now as Sentara gnawed away at it  Its death was announced this past week. Pending is how Bon Secours will look at its future in Hampton Roads.

Continue reading

DePaul Hospital’s Closing Presents a Unique Opportunity for Hampton Roads

De Paul Medical Center Jan. 29, 2021. Photo Credit: James C. Sherlock

by James C. Sherlock

Not too long ago, before the decline of the malls and COVID, the healthcare community coined what they called the Nordstrom Rule.

The meaning was that if you wished to optimize profits in your healthcare business, build it close to a Nordstrom. The theory was that Nordstrom had already done the market research to identify concentrations of wealthy customers.

I wrote yesterday about the Sisters of Charity and Bon Secours, Catholic charities both. The Sisters were not in it to serve wealthy patients. They purposely located their hospitals among the poor. So 19th and 20th century of them.

Sentara, a more sophisticated public charity, avoids locations close to the poor.

In 1991, Sentara purchased the Humana Bayside Hospital in Virginia Beach, renaming it Sentara Bayside Hospital. That cleansed Virginia Beach of a competitor. But Bayside served Virginia Beach’s largest concentration of economically disadvantaged minorities. So Sentara closed it at the first opportunity.

The Virginia Department of Health brokered the closing of Bayside in 2008 under the cover of the Certificate of Public Need (COPN) process that fatally wounded DePaul, allowing Sentara to relocate the Bayside beds to the new Sentara Princess Anne, far from the minority citizens of Bayside.

The closest hospital for many residents served by Bayside was then, you guessed it, DePaul. No longer. Continue reading