Category Archives: Education (K-12)

A Look at Richmond and COVID-19

By Peter Galuszka

Here is a roundup story I wrote for Style Weekly that was published today that explains the effects of COVID-19 on the Richmond area. Hopefully, BR readers will find it of interest.

It was a tough piece to report. The impacts of the deadly virus are very complicated and multi-faceted. An especially hard part was trying to keep with the fast-changing news, notably the number of new cases and deaths. We were updating right up until the story closed Monday afternoon. It was hard to talk to people with social-distancing and closings.

The experience shows the delicate balancing act between taking tough measures to stem the contagion and keeping the economy going. My view is that tough measures are needed because without them, it will all be much worse, particularly more illness and death as the experience in Italy has shown.

Incredibly, our utterly incompetent president, Donald Trump, now wants to focus on the economy more than taking necessary containment steps. It’s far too soon for that. Regrettably, a number of Bacon’s Rebellion commenters are sounding the same irresponsible tune in keeping with their big business and anti-regulation laud of free market capitalism. Continue reading

Northam Shuts Down Schools. What’s Next?

By DJ Rippert

Early Spring Break. Last Thursday Virginia Governor Northam somewhat suddenly decided to shut down all K-12 schools starting the next day. The shutdown is for “at least two weeks.” The question of how to manage continuing free and reduced price meals during the shutdown has been left up to the individual school districts. Yesterday a man in Virginia’s peninsula health district died of COVID-19. Today, Northam banned all gatherings of more than 100 people. As of this writing (1:30 p.m. .Sunday, March 15) there have been 45 cases of Coronavirus recorded in Virginia with one death.

After a “wait and see” start Northam now has Virginia taking actions in parallel with more aggressive U.S. states.  However, every state is taking action. West Virginia shut down its schools “indefinitely” despite the Mountain State being the only state in America to have no confirmed cases of Coronavirus. Future actions by the Virginia state government are hard to predict. Senior officials in the Trump Administration are urging a 14-day national shutdown which would obviously apply to Virginia. A good look at how the U.S. Coronavirus outbreak compares to other countries can be seen here. If the federal government does not declare a national shutdown, Virginia could still take any number of actions depending on the severity of the situation. Let’s look at what’s happening elsewhere.

Continue reading

Governor Northam, Close the Schools

by Hans Bader

Coronavirus is spreading rapidly. If the number of people with the disease continues to grow exponentially, it will overwhelm the healthcare system within a month. Hospitals will be so packed with patients that hospitals will run out of ventilators needed to keep seriously ill patients alive, and intensive care units will be filled to capacity. The lack of adequate medical care will increase the death rate from the disease, from under 1% to over 3%.

The Washington Post reports that is already about to happen throughout northern Italy, where the disease arrived earlier than in the U.S.

To slow down the spread of coronavirus, and keep the healthcare system from being overwhelmed, we need to close America’s schools now. Continue reading

How Virginia Would Fare Under President Biden, Part 1

By DJ Rippert

And then there were two. Today, Elizabeth Warren announced that she will withdraw from the presidential race. That leaves Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard (yes, she’s still running) as the remaining candidates for the Democratic nomination. Given that Tulsi Gabbard has exactly one delegate (from American Samoa where she was born), the odds of her prevailing are so low that the race can safely be considered a two- man contest. Two weeks ago Joe Biden’s campaign seemed deader than disco. Then came Super Tuesday. Now he’s the front runner.

It seems worthwhile, then, to consider how Biden’s announced policies would affect Virginia if he were elected president this November. Politico keeps an updated list of the candidates’ positions on the issues which you can see here. Politico records the candidates’ positions using fifteen categories. This blog post examines the first five categories — criminal justice, economy (excluding taxes which is a separate category), education, elections and energy (including the environment and climate change). The remaining ten categories will be examined in future articles.

Continue reading

From Diversity Training Sessions to Political Re-Education Camp

John Beatty — submit or be crushed

by James A. Bacon

Loudoun public school officials thought it would be a good idea to provide “cultural competency and sensitivity” training to teachers, administrators and school board members. As described by LoudounNow, the county rolled out a workshop series designed to “push participants outside their comfort zone” and “question their belief systems.” In particular, participants were “forced to grapple with the benefits afforded them from generations of white privilege, stretching back to America’s earlier days.”

Last week, board member John Beatty made the mistake of actually participating in the conversation. He made the observation that in the Jim Crow era following Reconstruction former slaves were worse off than they had been during slavery because they lacked the patronage of a master. The comment was meant to be an indictment of Jim Crow, not an endorsement of slavery, but it ignited a firestorm.

Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee Chairwoman Katrece Nolen and Executive Board member Wande Oshode found his observation so heinous that they called for him to be removed from two school board committees and asked the full board to condemn his comments. Continue reading

More Angst over SOQ

By Dick Hall-Sizemore

Although I am not happy about it, I am going to join, at least temporarily, this blog’s critics of newspapers.  Today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch has an article that is significantly slanted and ignores an important aspect of the subject being covered.

The article deals with the funding proposals in the General Assembly for K-12 education. In the print version, the sub-headline reads: “Budgets from each chamber will not fully finance new state standards for schools.” Throughout the article, there are references to the “revised Standards of Quality prescribed by the Board of Education” as well as to the state constitution’s requirement that the legislature “find the money to pay for the SOQ.” After reading this article, one has the distinct impression that the General Assembly is violating its constitutional duty by not providing the funds needed to pay for the revised SOQ (approximately $1 billion annually) that the board adopted last fall. (For a detailed description of these changes, see my earlier post here.) Continue reading

“Insane” Virginia Bill Will Endanger Kids

by Kerry Dougherty

Just when you thought the new left-wing majority in Richmond couldn’t get any crazier, they do this: Abolish the requirement that school principals report to law enforcement any student who commits sexual battery.

Boneheaded. Dangerous, too.

There’s more.

If HB257 becomes law school administrators will no longer be required to call the cops when a student engages in stalking, assault and battery, threatens school personnel or threatens the school itself.

This soft-on-young-criminals approach has its roots in an Obama policy aimed at ending the so-called “school-to-prison pipeline” that supposedly begins when kids engaging in minor criminal acts at school are turned over to the police and embark on a life of crime.

Of course, many of us don’t consider sexual battery minor. Nor do we shrug off threats made against a school. (Assault and battery could include fighting. No need to involve law enforcement for every minor skirmish. If it escalates, however, if a kid is seriously hurt, authorities should be summoned.) Continue reading

Making Schools Safe… for Violent Students

Data source: Virginia Department of Education Safe Schools Information Resource. These numbers exclude districts reporting fewer than 10 assaults and suppressed the exact number of incidents.

by James A. Bacon

For the past several years, the Virginia Department of Education has aggressively pushed a “restorative justice” approach to school discipline. Instead of relying upon traditional punishments like suspensions, teachers and administrators employ a dispute resolution process that appeals to the offending student’s reason and empathy.

How well is restorative justice working? One way to tell is by consulting the Virginia Department of Education’s Safe Schools Information Resource, a searchable database that records a wide range of disciplinary infractions, from assault & battery to bomb threats, from vandalism to bringing handguns to school.

It had not occurred to me to check this data until the House of Delegates and Senate passed HB 257, which, according to its legislative description, would remove the requirement that school officials refer to law enforcement such crimes as “assault or assault and battery.” The purpose of keeping law enforcement out of the picture is to cut off the so-called “school to prison pipeline” in which students committing crimes land in jail where they will only fall further behind academically and become even more likely to drop out of school. Continue reading

A Series of Hidden Tax Hikes In the Bag

The bag tax is 5 pence in Scotland, but will be 5 pennies here in Virginia.

By Steve Haner

Politicians hate taxes that voters pay by check and love taxes that are buried deep on invoices or fully invisible. The 2020 General Assembly is raising taxes right and left (mostly left) but focused on that second method. These will be tax increases most people will never spot.

Governor Ralph Northam’s record introduced budget was based on several proposed tax increases (and of course the extra money collected by breaking his promise to continue last year’s tax reform effort). But legislators have not been shy, only sly, about building on that base with additional levies.  Continue reading

Collective Bargaining in Schools: a Prescription for Problems

Joseph Ocol — booted from teacher’s union

by Chris Braunlich

Joseph Ocol is the kind of teacher most parents would fight to have teach their daughter.

His Englewood, Chicago, girls’ chess team won the national championship in 2016 against 60 other schools, an achievement noted in the Congressional Record, by news media and by the mayor and city council. And the girls have gone back since then, placing 4th last year.

But back in 2016, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) went on a one-day strike and Ocol made the decision that, if they were to have a chance at winning, his chess team couldn’t afford to take a day off from training. So Ocol skipped the strike to coach his kids.

For his efforts, the teachers’ union threw Ocol out. CTU simply put union needs above the needs of children from a community in which 45% are below the poverty line. Those who strayed from the party line were to be punished. Continue reading

If Mo’ Money Fails Maryland Schools, Why Will It Be Any Different in Virginia?

by James A. Bacon

Members of a Maryland education commission have painted a bleak picture of the state’s education system, reports the Washington Post. Students are failing, and teachers are fleeing. Without drastic reforms, the commission warns, Maryland’s economy will face dire consequences.

“The current system is not working,” says Maryland House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones, D-Baltimore County. “Maryland students are struggling to compete among their peers internationally. Achievement gaps based on income race and disability aren’t closing. We’re losing good teachers to better-paying industries. And the majority of our high school graduates aren’t college- and career-ready.”

The proposed solution? The same as it is everywhere: Mo’ Money! Lawmakers’ proposed legislation would cost Marylanders nearly $4 billion a year in state and local revenue.

Why should Virginians care about Maryland’s travails? Because Virginia is heading where Maryland is now. Continue reading

Bacon Bits: Antifa Hoax, Goose Sauce, Selling Nova Bike Trails

Hate crime hoaxes not just for minorities anymore. According to Willfred Reilly, the expert on hate crime hoaxes, the fastest-rising category of hoaxes is perpetrated by whites, as white groups take a lesson from the Left’s grievance-and-victimhood playbook. The latest instance involves a Civil War reenactor by the name of Gerald Leonard Drake, reports the Washington Post. Two years ago an undetonated pipe bomb was discovered at the annual reenactment of the Battle at Cedar Creek, in which Drake, a 61-year-old Virginia man, participated. A series of threatening letters issued under the name of Antifa followed, and the 2018 event was canceled. “We will make Charlottesville look like a Sunday picnic!” said one letter. Now the FBI has issued a search warrant revealing investigators’ belief that Drake wrote the letters. Drake has not been charged with a crime.

Sauce for the goose… The Virginia Education Association has been fighting for the right to engage in collective bargaining for its members, and many members of the General Assembly think that’s a dandy idea. The VEA is, after all, a staunch supporter of the Democrats who now run the legislature. But writing in his blog Union Report, Mike Antonucci recounts a little history. The VEA does not have the most harmonious of relationships with its own employees. Employees of the union formed a picket line outside VEA headquarters in 2012, and management-employee relations have been simmering ever since. Employees have filed a lawsuit, petitioned the parent union, and in 2018 even filed an unfair labor practice complaint. Schools are chaotic enough. Do we need to add collective bargaining to the list of woes? (Hat tip: Chris Braunlich.)

Enticing creative-class Millennials. The labor market in Northern Virginia is exceedingly tight, and that’s before Amazon has ramped up its hiring of 25,000 employees. Economic developers are shifting some of their attention from recruiting corporate investment to… recruiting talent to fill jobs that are going begging. The Northern Virginia Economic Development Alliance and the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce are making it their top priority to lure bright young minds to the region, reports the Washington Post. Northern Virginia has a tough sell on a couple of quality-of-life indicators: traffic congestion and the cost of housing. The target audience, says Victor Hoskins with Fairfax County economic development, is “looking for a food culture, brew and distillery culture, bike paths, walking trails. How can we package this so they can easily navigate it and relate it to a job opportunity, too?”

Discipline in Schools? Who Needs Discipline in Schools?

New discipline-free zone?

by James A. Bacon

Speaking of legislation that never made it out of committee in the past but now could be unleashed upon Virginia (see previous post), there’s HB 256, a bill that would modify the state statute on disorderly conduct so that it does not apply on school property or in school buses.

This bill, introduced by Mike Mullin, D-Newport News, and passed by the House in a 61-to-37 vote, continues the trend of undermining the ability of public schools to maintain discipline. Undoubtedly the bill’s backers can cite anecdotal examples in which disorderly conduct represented overkill. Perhaps school districts need to review such cases and adopt policies to prevent abuses. But that’s no reason to categorically deprive schools of a disciplinary option for preventing violence.

Let’s remind ourselves of the definition of “disorderly conduct”: Continue reading

Taboo Views on Race and Higher Ed

Willfred Reilly

by James A. Bacon

The reason for the academic under-performance of African-American students in K-12 and college is a matter of contentious debate in the United States. The dominant narrative holds that African-Americans are held back by racism either overt or unconscious. Conversely, some hew to the view that genetic factors such as IQ are to blame. But to Willfred Reilly, a political science professor at Kentucky State University, the answer is neither: It’s the culture.

A single observation disproves both the racism and genetic theories, he says: Black immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean Islands in the United States are prospering. Says he: “All of these brothers from Africa and the islands do as well as whites do.” 

The culture of Africans and islanders differs from that of many African-Americans. “One of the biggest predictors [in educational outcomes] is how much you study. That’s 70 to 80 percent of it. The other is having a dad at home. If you adjust for hours studied and dads at home, there’s virtually no difference between the races.”

To Reilly’s way of thinking, the genetic view is pernicious. But it’s not terribly influential. By contrast, the view that blames all the problems of African-Americans on white racism — what he calls the Continuing Oppression Narrative (CON) — is far more entrenched and, at this point in time, more dangerous. Policies based on that narrative have unintended consequences that do considerable harm. Continue reading

Answer Basic Questions, Please, Before Demanding Mo’ Money

The Heights, a $100 million school in Arlington County, co-locates a “democratic alternative magnet” program and a program for students with severe intellectual disabilities, according to School Construction News. It comes equipped with a lobby/gathering space, a theater, a gymnasium, rooftop terraces, and smart panel screens. Wildly extravagant, yes. But, in all fairness, no one else in Virginia is building schools like this.

by James A. Bacon

Some public schools in Virginia, especially in inner cities and rural areas, are in disgraceful condition. Rainwater leaks into classrooms, ceiling tiles are falling, mold is growing, and rats are scurrying. We can all agree that something needs to be done. But what? How widespread are these problems? Are they so ubiquitous that the state should step in?

Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, thinks so. “We have a constitutional obligation to provide high-quality education to every child, regardless of their ZIP code or financial situation in life,” he says. Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond seems to agree. “We ought to be able to figure out a way to do better for our children and teachers.” So reports the Roanoke Times.

To lawmakers, finding a better way almost always translates into providing mo’ money. Schools crumbling? Give localities more money to pay for repairs, renovations and new construction. And maybe mo ‘money is what’s needed. But maybe not. Given legislators’ Pavlovian response to any problem — spend more money — citizens should insist that legislators examine the possibility that maybe, just maybe, there are other ways to deal with the phenomenon of crumbling schools. Continue reading