General Assembly Education Bills – What is Missing?

Speaker Eileen Filer-Corn

by James C. Sherlock

This is one of a series of regular a weekly updates on bills in the 2021 General Assembly that will affect education. I will discuss some the newly filed education bills tomorrow. After that, health care and health insurance.

What is missing so far in educational legislation is more important than what has been introduced.  Some examples follow.

Colleges and Universities

  1. No bill addresses the devastating results of the college free speech survey reported in this space and requires adoption of University of Chicago principles for free speech by state supported colleges and universities.
  2. No bill restricts state-supported colleges and universities from educating students from China and Iran in science and technology. What could go wrong?
  3. No bill stops the headlong expansion and reduces the current size of administrative bureaucracies in Virginia’s state-supported colleges and universities to reduce overhead costs and improve general efficiency. The first step would be to get a handle on the size of the problem with a JLARC report. Administrator per student, administrator per teaching position in each school and administration costs would be good measurements to have when considering legislation. Find out what those numbers are and direct the state-appointed Boards of Visitors to cut those costs by ten percent a year for three years. Then have JLARC report if they are even missed.

K-12 Education

  1. No bill or budget amendment so far addresses mitigation, measurement and remediation of COVID-related learning losses. Remote learning has taken the easily predictable and well documented highest toll on Virginia’s most disadvantaged students. Democrats, in the thrall of the educational left, are uninterested. I have written of the problems, but that was hardly the first warning flag. There has been plenty of time for legislative initiatives. I have some hope of seeing the budget amendment I have recommended to fund year-round schools, but I am still surprised and disappointed to see no evidence that the General Assembly understands the critical nature of the problem. Compared to this, the legislation that is in the hopper is small ball indeed.
  2. No bill establishes state-wide grading standards to roll back the Albemarle County “homework, attendance, class participation and test scores shall not affect grades” travesty and prevent its spread.
  3. No bill requires the Department of Education to maintain and administer the SOLs this year and going forward to offer a proven, standardized method of evaluation of educational progress. It is hell-bent to shift to local evaluations instead, which will have no comparative value whatever.
  4. No bill requires the Department of Education to abandon the path that it is on to eliminate competition for advanced programs based on achievement. There is no indication of whether the GA has an opinion on whether testing should be used for assessment of entry into magnet schools and other advanced programs.
  5. No bill protects Asian-American children from being discriminated against in Department of Education policy. Where do Democrats stand on this? Perhaps we should ask Secretary Qarni.
  6. No bill strengthens the performance standards and eases the current restrictions on the establishment and operation of charter schools. The Loudon NAACP requested charter schools in that district.  Crickets in the General Assembly. That shows the dominant influence of left-wing educational dogma vs. the NAACP in Virginia Democratic politics.
  7. No bill strengthens state oversight of the state’s worst performing schools for black children. Just more money. No Democratic interest in how it is spent.
  8. No bill bans threats of strikes by school employees. Strikes themselves are banned, but we learned last summer and even now that strike threats work even so. Again, when it is teachers unions vs. kids, bet on the unions in a Democratic-controlled state.

Republican legislation attempts proved to be dead letters in this General Assembly last year and likely will again this year. So education legislation is effectively up to the Democrats.

Elected representatives in a republican form of government are supposed to know and take action, because parents can’t be expected to keep track of the revolutionary changes underway.

There is absolutely no lobby for the best interests of students to contest the powerful ones representing the interests and policy preferences of the educational establishment, which more often than not conflict with interests of students.

Part of the problem is public corruption. We countenance this imbalance of political influence by permitting unlimited campaign donations, Virginia’s political original sin. The unions pour money in. What are the kids going to do? Lemonade stands?.

Part of the problem is ignorance on the part of the General Assembly of what is actually going on in education policy and its potential for devastation of the schools.

We can see the coming crisis in K-12 from a combination of extreme losses of qualified teachers and parents pulling their kids out of the public schools. I predict the shortage of qualified teachers coming in the next couple of years will drive everything else including exacerbation of student migration to other educational options. A self-perpetuating cycle of collapse.

I suspect alternate excuses for those easy-to-predict occurrences are already formulated by the educational left.

For Democrats, the solution will mean more spending, not better policy.

Spending won’t keep teachers who are driven away by leftist policies that bring with them disincentives to teaching that already exist in some school districts in Virginia and are by evolving policy destined for them all.

These include:

  • profoundly insulting teacher cultural re-education programs;
  • classroom chaos from inability to enforce discipline;
  • the lack of enforceable educational progress standards that brings with it an inability to inform parents and motivate students with grades leading to what are effectively social promotions that will in turn create very large mismatches of skills in single classes and “lost” students;
  • the inability to enforce homework and attendance requirements;
  • socially restructured syllabi;
  • personal “mentoring” that in actuality means monitoring for social attitudes; and
  • growing non-educational demands on their time in ever-growing numbers of pointless committees.

What teacher would want to work in that environment regardless of her politics?

The General Assembly will exhibit surprise and dismay when teachers leave in droves and existing educational and experience standards for their replacements dissolve in the face of shortages.

Who could predict such a thing?