Education Report Card

Grading legislators is an inexact science practiced rigorously by interest groups. The latest organization to try and make a splash by rating General Assembly members is Virginia21, an “action-tank involving young people across the Commonwealth in the political process by providing information, directing advocacy and coordinating political action on a non-partisan issue agenda.” As with any group, some might quarrel with the “non-partisan” claim.

Virginia21 graded legislators on “student and higher education issues.” On the Dean’s List were such notables as Delegates Vince Callahan (R), Frank Hall (D), Joe May (R), and Democratic Lt. Governor candidate Chap Petersen. They received a score of over 4.0.

At the bottom of the list was Del. Mark Cole, R-Spotsylvania. He received a 0.7. Predictably, he challenged the “non-partisan” issue ratings: “I consider it a badge of honor, considering Virginia 21. In general, I think Virginia 21 has a very liberal bent to it. So I bet they scored very liberal General Assembly members higher than they did the conservative ones.”

Del. Viola Baskerville, also running for the Lt. Gov. nomination, received a 4.0. Del. Robert McDonnell, running for the Republican AG nomination, got a 1.7.

Senators weren’t rated, apparently because they’re not running for re-election this year.

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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Say what you will about Virginia21 – their is no question they are “pro-tax.”

    But I don’t get Mark Cole “liberal” charge. Every bill that’s in their scorecard was introduced by a member of the House Republican Caucus. I don’t call that liberal.

    They’re not measuring Republicans against Liberal Dem bills….they are measuring Republicans (and Democrats) against Republican bills.

  2. I’m sorry, but anyone who thinks Virginia21 is a Democratic front group doesn’t know Virgnia21. I KNOW SEVERAL Republicans who work hard for this group. Really conservative Republicans.

    If you’re an idiot on higher education issues, you received a low grade. Mark Cole – you should seriously shut up.

  3. The Jaded JD Avatar
    The Jaded JD

    Oh, for Pete’s sake, they’ve given Del. van Landingham a 4.0 and she wasn’t even there last session. Sure, it was an excused absence, but you can’t miss a whole semester and make a 4.0. How credible is that?

  4. Jaded JD:

    I’ve done it many times.

  5. Ray Hyde Avatar

    “an inexact science practiced rigorously by interest groups.”

    I love it.

    That covers an awful lot of territory.

  6. GOPHokie Avatar

    I am a student at VT and I work with Virginia21 with the SGA. I can tell you that alot of what it does is probably liberal, and here is why. Basically Virginia21 goes to college campuses across Virginia and gets feedback from students about what they want from the General Assembly. Since most college aged people, especially those in SGA’s and leadership positions, are liberal, they set their agenda accordingly. It is also my experience that even “conservative” students sometimes have not so conservative ideas when it comes to issues that involve students such as higher funding of education at the expense of other things. To most college students, the most important issue to them is financial aid/need, and they don’t care what has to be cut in other areas of government in order for them to get it.

  7. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Gohokie, It’s nice to know that at least some college kids have a sense of perspective. Virginia21 may not consciously identify itself as a “liberal” group, but its solution–raise taxes in order to reduce tuition costs–clearly is. And I say that as a father who, right now, is making significant financial sacrifices to send two daughters to public Virginia universities.

    We cannot ask taxpayers to blindly dump more money into the universities without holding them accountable for how they spend it. The fact is, the cost of higher education is far outpacing the general cost of living–and peoples’ incomes. Yes, accessibility to a quality university education is vital in a knowledge economy. But there’s a limit to Virginians’ tolerance for ever-increasing taxes.

    To me, Virginia21 is just another special interest group.

  8. Jim: Have you seen how far Virginia lags behind other states in dollar per student spending ratios? We’re doubled by the other states that have quality schools (Michigan and California). And their tuition is lower! Virginia uses it’s public universities as piggy banks during recessions.

  9. Politicl.Animal Avatar


    Where might I get a look at those numbers?

  10. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Paul, I haven’t checked the numbers recently, but the last time I did, Virginia was in the middle of the pack in terms of state support per student. Our lagging metric is state support per institution, a reflection of the fact that we have so many institutions. Do we really need three public universities–William & Mary, Old Dominion and Christopher Newport –in Hampton Roads? Do we really need two public universities–Virginia Tech and Radford–in the New River Valley? Now we have Martinsville lobbying for yet another public institution in a region already served by Longwood!

  11. GOPHokie Avatar

    If Jim is correct about funding being based per institution then I can clearly see we would lag states such as CA and MI. This is because our schools have alot less students. VT has 25,000 and JMU is around 20,000. UVa is about 15-20 I think. U of Mich has 53,000 and Mich St has 44,000. Our schools are not very large when compared to other states (due in large part to what Jim said, we have multiple universities in the same area).

  12. Anonymous Avatar

    Just for clarification….

    Virginia is 37th in the nation for state support of colleges per capita and 39th per 1000$ in personal income. It’s appaling. And we claim that we want the best system in the country. You can’t get it on the cheap.

    I am all for saving money whereever we can. But you have more and more students who want – or need – a higher education. Where are we going to put them? or will the solution be to ask them to stay a 5th year (not an inexpensive solution).

    I don’t know what the answer is…

    Still no-one has answered how this Virginia21 report card can be called liberal when every bill in it it was introduced by a House Republican.

  13. GOPHokie Avatar

    While I don’t think it is really a liberal interest group (8 of the 14 delegates on the “dean’s list” are Republicans), I can see where some people would get that idea when looking at the ratings. For the Republicans, the party leaders seem to get middle rankings (Howell:2.6, Griffith:2.8, and Landes:2.4) whereas the Dems leaders have much higher ratings (Hall:4.1, Moran:4.0). Also I would point out that just because bills are proposed by Republicans doesn’t necessarily make them Conservative ideas. Most of the votes Republicans got docked for was the absentee ballot changes and the budget. I’m not sure exactly how they broke the budget down into “credits” for their grading system, but thats just some insight.

  14. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Anonymous, Do you have the numbers for state support per student, which is arguably the most germane ranking?

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