Category Archives: Education (K-12)

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

Financing Public Education–2–Non-SOQ Programs

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

Note: This is the second installment of an overview and discussion of state financing of K-12 education in localities. Part 1 of this series was an overview of financing related to the Standards of Quality.

The Standards of Quality is the major category through which the Commonwealth provides financial assistance for public education, but there are other important sources as well. These are:  incentive programs, categorical programs, and lottery-funded programs. Together, the introduced budget bill would provide $2.3 billion in FY 2023 and $2.0 billion in the second year in these categories for local school divisions.

Two aspects need to be noted. First, the total amounts to be distributed are estimates. The actual amount of lottery profits is likely to change and, therefore, the amount of funding available for distribution to school divisions will change accordingly. Second, participation in these programs by school divisions is optional. A school division does not have to participate in the Virginia Preschool Initiative or the Early Reading Intervention programs, for example. But, if it does choose to participate and receive the funding available, it must provide the local matching funds, if required, and abide by all the other conditions set out in the Appropriation Act and Department of Education (DOE) guidelines. 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

Excising the “Equity” from Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

by James A. Bacon

The biggest challenge Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin will face during his four-year term, scheduled to begin four days from now, will be to undo the “progressive” policy prescriptions of the Northam administration inspired by Critical Race Theory. The trickiest of these is Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, or DEI, which is a benign name for a set of pernicious ideas.

DEI has become orthodoxy in K-12 education, higher education, and state government today, and its proponents will defend it tenaciously. Youngkin can be certain that any efforts to reverse the orthodoxy will inspire vocal allegations of racism. It is critical that he frame the issue so as to seize the moral high ground and maintain strong public support.

With this post, I share some thoughts about the rhetoric he needs to adopt.

The first step is to be clear about what is so objectionable about “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion.” It’s not the words “diversity” or “inclusion.” The United States is a nation of immigrants. Virginia is a demographically diverse state. It is appropriate to celebrate our ethnic diversity, and it is axiomatic that our schools, colleges, and government should be open and welcoming to Virginians from all walks of life. Continue reading

How to Discriminate by Race… Without Admitting You’re Discriminating by Race

New board emails, texts reveal “embarrassing” politics with “bonus points”

by Asra Q. Nomani

In fall 2020, Fairfax County, Va., school board members said the quiet part out loud.

As school district officials engineered race-based admissions changes to America’s No. 1 high school, to increase the numbers of Black and Hispanic students, school board member Abrar Omeish sent board member Stella Pekarsky a text, saying: “I mean there has been an anti asian feel underlying some of this, hate to say it lol,” using the acronym for “laughing out loud.”

Pekarsky, now the board chair, responded: “…I always told people that talking about TJ is a stupid waste of tome [sic].”

Omeish answered: “Of course it is…They’re discriminated against in this process too.”

The messages are part of months of emails and texts made public in a federal lawsuit by Coalition for TJ, a grassroots parent group, against the Fairfax County School Board, alleging anti-Asian racism in the new admissions policy to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, ranked America’s No. 1 high school by U.S. News and World Report. Pacific Legal Foundation is representing the Coalition for TJ, and has carried the mantle courageously for parents in New York City, waging a similar battle to protect merit-based education. Our Coalition for TJ parents are inspiring folks with names like Suparna, Hemang, Glenn, Helen, Harry and Yuyan — all with complicated stories of overcoming adversity in their lives. 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

Financing Public Education–Part I, Standards of Quality

by Dick Hall-Sizemore

The 2022-2024 budget proposed by Governor Northam includes $8.6 billion in general fund appropriations in the first year and $8.3 billion in the second year for state assistance to local K-12 programs. These amounts are a little more than a quarter of the entire general fund budget. Compared to the appropriation for the current fiscal year, these proposed amounts are an increase of $1.3 billion (18.2 %) in the first year and $1.0 billion (14.3%) in the second year. It is easily the largest budget proposed for public education in the state’s history.

The details of state funding for public education can be mind-numbing; they take up more than 40 pages of closely-spaced type in the proposed budget bill. Those details are known and understood by only a relative handful of individuals in and around state and local governments. Continue reading

Education Usurpation

You will submit.

by A.L. Schuhart

In case you missed it, Northern Virginia Community College is now not only committed to excellence in academics, it is also committed to “education programming that helps participants further understand broader issues of systemic bias and structural racism that contribute to a false hierarchy of values.”

This mission has been given to NOVA by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU), which has selected NOVA to be a “Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Center.”

As a citizen of Virginia, and not just as a college professor, I have to ask what business it is of any public institution to determine which values citizens should have, and I have to question the honesty and ethics of educators who determine for themselves how equal citizens should view the world and what attitudes they should have. I have to ask what right educators have to use their classrooms to achieve this affective goal, and how such educators can look themselves in the mirror without seeing themselves as the traitors they are when they do so. Continue reading

Schools Closing Because Teachers Don’t Like Child Care Options

by Hans Bader

My school system in Arlington County is needlessly closing today. Supposedly, the reason is the “weather,” but the school system admits that actually, “the primary and neighborhood roads in Arlington are clear and our schools are ready.” Why then, are they closing? Because some teachers have kids, and some of those teachers complain they are having difficulty finding decent childcare options for those kids! As the lawyer Clark Neily notes, “they’re going to go ahead and pass that inconvenience on to us — while billing us for the privilege, of course.”

This is the same school system that is considering getting rid of grades on homework and allowing constant lateness and retakes on work. The school system claims that is about promoting “equity,” but eliminating grading also reduces work for the teachers, which may be something their union wants (on the other hand, allowing retakes is probably something teachers don’t want).

As I explain at this link, abolishing grades for homework will result in students studying less and learning less. The Arlington school board can be reached by email (at school.board@apsva.us).

Below is the Arlington Public Schools school closure notice: Continue reading

A Fitting Bookend to Northam’s School Misrule

Rosa S. Atkins

by James A. Bacon

Governor Ralph Northam has named Rosa S. Atkins as Virginia’s acting Superintendent of Public Instruction to replace the departing superintendent, James Lane. Atkins served 15 years as superintendent of the Charlottesville public school system before retiring to join the Virginia Department of Education as assistant superintendent for talent acquisition and development.

“In Charlottesville, Dr. Atkins was a true pioneer as she engaged her community in courageous conversations and implemented strategic initiatives to expand opportunities for all students and eliminate disparities,” said Northam. “Throughout her career, she has made an amazing impact on public school students in Virginia.”

Atkins probably will be a short-termer, providing continuity until Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin announces his own selection for the position. But I was struck by Northam’s comment praising her for “courageous conversations” and initiatives to “eliminate disparities.” So, I thought I’d do some background research. As it turns out, Atkins has had an impact, but I wouldn’t call it “amazing.” Continue reading