by Shaun Kenney
Remember the old adage — the goal isn’t to win the debate, but to make sure you don’t lose the debate.
Former Democratic governor Terry McAuliffe was pressed on graphic textbooks — and I mean graphic — of a sexual nature being included in government school libraries, and McAuliffe exploded with rage.
Not towards school districts, mind you — but towards busybody parents who had the audacity to look into what their children were actually being taught in the classroom.
That’s when McAuliffe decided to say the quiet part out loud:
That sound you heard last night was the simultaneous squealing of wheels on the mental pavement of a million Virginians. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Last week a large fight broke out at Meadowbrook High School in Chesterfield County. Police were summoned, and the school shut down for the day. According to WWBT-TV, a video circulating on social media showed school resource officers (SROs) getting hit as “more than ten” students attacked one another in the hallway.
Some Virginia school districts are eliminating SROs, declaring their presence to be oppressive. One question: How would you feel if you were the student being protected in the photo above? Chesterfield County Police Chief Jeffery Katz released the image of SRO Anthony Bowen using his body “to shield a young man from a mob attacking a student.” Bowen was struck several times in the process. Praising the officer for his selflessness, Katz said he remains committed to keeping Chesterfield school children safe. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Virginia public schools are facing a crisis in legitimacy. Never in recent history have parents been so up in arms. This morning I published three columns submitted by readers, all on the subject of the dismaying disconnect between educators and parents in K-12 schools. I did not solicit them. Readers sent them in. The educational melt-down is not just on my mind, it’s on their minds.
The column by Arthur Purves below sums it up well. It’s one thing to soak taxpayers to support public schools. It’s another thing to tax them for inadequate student achievement. It’s another thing yet again to increase taxes on middle- class families to indoctrinate their children with antithetical values.
Not all school districts are equally contemptuous of middle-class values. Schools in Northern Virginia and Virginia’s other major metros are the worst. But they are cheered on by a state educational apparatus in Richmond that seems intent upon using schools to implement a social revolution that portrays “whiteness” as a form of oppression and promotes offensive sexual values. Continue reading
Hudson, Ohio, Mayor Craig Shubert
by Deborah Hommer
In Hudson, Ohio, several days ago, Mayor Craig Shubert addressed the School Board. “It has come to my attention that your educators are distributing essentially what is child pornography in the classroom,” he said. “I’ve spoken to a judge this evening, she’s already confirmed that, so I’m going to give you a simple choice. You either choose to resign from this board of education or you will be charged. Thank you.”
Schubert then walked away to riotous cheers from a crowd of outraged parents. Some of the writing that upset parents included violent scenarios like “choose how you will die” and “write a scene that begins. ‘It was the first time I killed a man,'” to weird sexual suggestions like “write a sex scene you wouldn’t show your mom,” and “write an X-rated Disney scenario.”
I am here to tell you that the English-required reading materials that outraged Hudson parents were were mild compared to what’s found in Fairfax County Public Schools. Mayor Shubert, hold my beer. Continue reading
by Arthur G. Purves
Virginia ended Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 with a record-breaking budget surplus of $2.6 billion. (Virginia’s budget year, or fiscal year, is from July 1 to June 30.) Virginia Governor Ralph Northam stated that the surplus was due to Virginia’s great business climate, pointing out that CNBC ranked Virginia as the #1 state for being business friendly. Not everyone agrees with CNBC. The Virginia Industry Foundation last November ranked Virginia as #11.
$800 million in tax hikes. Also, Governor Northam did not acknowledge that perhaps $800 million of the surplus is from two recent tax hikes. One is the internet sales tax, which started July 2019. The other is Virginia’s failure to increase its income tax standard deductions to conform to the federal standard deductions.
Currently the Virginia standard deduction for single and married filers is $4,500 and $9,000 compared to the 2021 federal deductions of $12,550 and $25,100. Many filers have itemized deductions that are less than the federal standard deduction but greater than the Virginia standard deduction. They opt for the federal standard deduction to save on federal taxes but are then forced by Virginia to use the Virginia standard deduction on their state return. They then pay more for their Virginia tax than they did with itemized deductions. Continue reading
by Asra Q. Nomani
Last night, Thursday, September 23, a brave Fairfax High School mother, Stacy Langton, walked up to the podium at a regular meeting of the Fairfax County School Board, carrying with her two books and printouts from images in the books.
She had watched a Texas school board meeting at which parents read from two books that they had found in their school library — “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison and “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe. She looked for the books at Fairfax High School, and she found them at the school and throughout the county — available to minors as young as seventh grade, or as young as 12 years old, at Robinson Secondary School.
“The books were available, and we checked them out,” she recalled.
by James A. Bacon
For the 10th consecutive year, Virginia has earned the federal government’s “highest rating” for improving outcomes for students with disabilities and for complying with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Virginia Department of Education said in a press release yesterday.
Only five states and state-level education systems have earned the “Meets Requirements” designation for ten consecutive years.
Go the U.S. Department of Education website, and you’ll find that Virginia, 21 other states, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands earned the “meets requirements” rating. That’s a heck of a distinction! Continue reading
by Kerry Dougherty
School officials are wringing their hands in Newport News right now, wondering what they could have done to prevent a shooting at Heritage High School that left a 17-year-old boy and girl with bullet wounds.
On Monday morning, outside of the school cafeteria, the boy was shot in the head and leg, the girl was also shot in her leg and several other students were injured in the chaos that followed the incident.
Frightened kids were herded out of the school to Heritage’s tennis courts, where they waited for their parents.
News reports initially said the suspect and the victims knew each other, but the injured boy told detectives he didn’t know the shooter. The Daily Press reports that much of the crime was caught on school surveillance cameras. After a brief fight in the hallway, which was broken up by a teacher, the suspect reached into his backpack, removed an item and minutes later pulled a gun out of his waistband and began shooting. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Straw in the wind #1: Two students were wounded in a shooting at Heritage High School in Newport News Monday. The incident didn’t fit the profile of a mass shooting by a mentally distressed student lashing out at random. The shootings, in which a male student was shot in the side of the face and a female was shot in the leg, stemmed from a dispute between two youths who knew one another.
Straw in the wind #2: Nearly 10% of Richmond Public School students are “no shows” for the 2021-22 school year, the city school system reports. Nearly 2,400 students have failed to show up to class this year. Of those 359 are “virtual learners” who have yet to check in online.
What we are seeing here is the fallout from last year’s disastrous policies of shutting down in-person learning. Most Virginia families were equipped to handle the shift, but many were not. Tens of thousands of children were left at home unsupervised as their parent (or parents) worked. Left to their own devices, many made a sham of studying and occupied themselves by interacting with each other on social media. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Josh Thompson, an English teacher at Blacksburg High School in Montgomery County, explains in the TikTok video above how Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (BPIS), the disciplinary approach used by Virginia public schools, amounts to “white supremacy with a hug.” BPIS was touted originally as a reform of the traditional disciplinary system, which relied more heavily upon punishments and was considered racist because Blacks were sanctioned disproportionately. But in the minds of some, PBIS is itself racist.
Fortunately, the Northam administration has not embraced the PBIS-as-white-supremacy critique…. not yet. I re-post Thompson’s TikTok here as an example of the kind of thinking that flows logically from the social-justice theories being batted around in Virginia public schools and could soon work their way into the mainstream. Continue reading
Photo credit: Steve Helber/AP.
by James A. Bacon
Aspiring Governor Terry McAuliffe has referred to concerns about Critical Race Theory in public schools as a “right-wing conspiracy.” Likewise, the media has downplayed the CRT controversy roiling many school systems by dismissing CRT as an obscure academic legal theory that is “not taught in schools.” That response, of course, is a rhetorical dodge. Radical social justice doctrines, however you label them, are being pushed by the Virginia Department of Education, Virginia’s education schools, many school districts, in staff and teacher training sessions. and sometimes even in classrooms.
Susan Page of USA Today, moderator of the gubernatorial debate between Democrat McAuliffe and Republican Glenn Youngkin last night, missed a chance to pin down exactly what McAuliffe thinks about what is happening in Virginia schools.
Page pressed Youngkin on matters that might put him at odds with elements of his Republican coalition. What is his stance on abortion? Does he think Democrats will steal the election this fall? What does he think about vaccine mandates? All fair questions, to be sure. But, based on media accounts (I did not watch the debate) she failed to query McAuliffe about his views on the most sweeping overhaul of Virginia public education system since the dismantling of Massive Resistance.
Here are some questions she could have asked the candidates. Continue reading
SAT scores range from 200 to 800 in both English and Math. Composite scores range from 400 to 1600.
by James A. Bacon
CollegeBoard has released SAT data for the 2021 testing season, and the good news for the Old Dominion is that Virginia high school graduates outperformed their peers in the other 49 states (and Washington, D.C.). Virginia’s average overall score of 1151 for English and Math was 91 points higher than the national average.
Even in a normal year, however, comparing state SAT scores is a dicey proposition. This year, after K-12 schools across the country adopted widely different strategies in response to the COVID-19 epidemic, comparisons are even more problematic.
“While this year’s results represent a snapshot of achievement on the SAT during an extraordinary year,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane in a press release yesterday, “Virginia students overall continue to perform well above their peers nationwide.”
Lane’s statement holds up under scrutiny, as I shall show momentarily. Virginia’s schools did outperform their peers. However, Virginia schools have always outperformed other states. The key question for Virginia voters evaluating the performance of the Northam administration is whether Virginia’s lead over other states grew or shrank in the past year. Did we fare better or worse relatively speaking? Answers are difficult to come by. Continue reading
Bye, Bye, Brackney. The City of Charlottesville will not renew the employment contract of Police Chief RaShall Brackney, who took on the job in June 2018, the City announced on its website yesterday. No explanation was given. However, the announcement follows less than two weeks after publication of a survey of Charlottesville police officers showing the morale was in the dumps, that toxic city politics had prompted many to scale back on traffic stops, arrests and community policing, and that few officers felt that Brackney had their back. Among other actions as the city’s first Black female police chief, who came on shortly after the tumultuous Unite the Right Rally, Brackney had dissolved the SWAT Team after allegations of misogynistic and other inappropriate behavior.
Speaking of employment contracts… University of Virginia President Jim Ryan was awarded a $200,000 bonus during a closed session of the June 3 Board of Visitors meeting, The Cavalier Daily student newspaper has revealed. The university froze salaries for all employees during the early months of the COVID-19 epidemic, and Ryan and other senior officials took a 10% pay cut. Said Rector Whittington Clement: “When the situation this year became clearer and we had a highly successful handling of COVID-19, we think the University did as well as, if not better, than any institution of higher learning in making the adjustments necessary to COVID-19, we thought that it was appropriate to give him a bonus.” Continue reading
Annual District Enrollment for Kindergarten using 2015 as the base year, comparing remote only (straight line), hybrid (dashed line), and in-person (dotted line) trends.
by James A. Bacon
National enrollment in public schools across the country fell by 2% nationally — by 1.1 million students — in the 2020-21 school year as school districts and parents grappled with how to respond to the COVID-19 epidemic, finds a new study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).
The decline was concentrated in the early grades. Kindergarten enrollment plummeted by 9%, concluded the study, “The Revealed Preferences for School Reopening: Evidence from Public-School Disenrollment,” by Thomas Dee and three co-authors, all with Stanford University.
“These results suggest that significant numbers of parents, particularly parents of younger children, did not want their children to participate in remote instruction,” write Dee et al. Continue reading
Source: Fairfax County “ESSER III Spending Plan”
by James A. Bacon
Fairfax County Public Schools are getting $188 million in federal helicopter COVID-19 relief funds, and school officials propose spending about 88% of the sum undoing the damage caused by the system’s COVID-19 shutdowns. Eighty-six million will go toward addressing “unfinished learning,” and another $78 million to “academic, social, emotional and mental health needs.”
“Disruptions to learning during COVID-19 have resulted in significant ‘unfinished learning’ or ‘learning loss,'” states the proposed ESSER III Spending Plan. (ESSER stands for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief.) Studies predict that students will return this fall with roughly 70% of learning gains in reading achievement compared to a typical school year and 50% of the gains in mathematics, the document says.
The pandemic and “initial school closures” had a disproportionate impact on students with disabilities, English Language Learners, students of color, and economically disadvantaged students, the document says. Nationally, White students likely lost four to eight months, while students of color lost six to twelve months. Continue reading