Setting the bar for low expectations. Yup, that’s Virginia in the red circle. Virginia’s passing grade for 4th grade Standards of Learning exams is below what the NAEP considers “basic,” which is lower than proficient.
by James A. Bacon
Virginia’s standardized tests used to measure reading and math proficiency for 4th graders set the lowest passing score in the country in 2019 — literally the lowest among the 50 states — according to a National Assessment of Educational Progress report. Virginia’s reading standards were so low that they fell below what NAEP considered “basic.”
NAEP conducts what it calls a “mapping study” that compares the proficiency standards set by the states for their students. Because standards vary across states, they cannot be compared directly. So, NAEP compares state standards to its standard, which it uses for national tests every two years.
The mapping study, released June 1, 2021, examined the reading and math standards for tests administered in 2019. Virginia’s reading standards that year reflected decisions made by the Virginia Board of Education (SBOE) in 2013. In 2020 the SBOE watered down Virginia’s English reading test standards even more, requiring students to answer even fewer questions correctly to be considered “proficient.” Unless other states lower their standards, Virginia could fall even further behind its peers. Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Walter Smith, a University of Virginia alumnus, was miffed when UVa leadership mandated that all students must be vaccinated if they are to return to the university in the fall. His daughter, a UVa student, had caught the COVID-19 virus, lived through 10 days of quarantine, acquired natural immunities, and was at near-zero risk of spreading the virus. He saw no purpose in exposing her to whatever dangers might be associated with taking the vaccine. Moreover, he had concerns about health-privacy violations as well as philosophical objections of a civil-liberties nature.
You may disagree with Smith’s characterization of the vaccination mandate — which has been adopted at most other Virginia public universities, incidentally — as “un-American, un-scientific, [and] totalitarian.” But if you believe in transparency, then you should be concerned about what happened when Smith tried to ascertain UVa’s reasoning for the requirement.
News reports were worthless. In May Smith wrote UVa President Jim Ryan and Rector James Murray to ask the justification for the mandate. Ryan did not respond, but Murray did. He wrote: Continue reading
by Kerry Dougherty
Remember your high school commencement address?
Of course you don’t.
It was delivered by some semi-important person from your community who read a boilerplate speech off 3×5 file cards. An unwritten rule of graduation speeches declared that speakers must expound on three things: “milestones,” “success” and the “future.” So, as he or she prattled on, you either dozed or daydreamed about the parties you were heading to as soon as you could ditch your cap and gown.
You were lucky.
Much luckier than the 505 graduates at Falls Church “Justice” High School last week. The school formerly known as J.E.B. Stuart High School.
At their June 7 graduation, students were treated to anti-Israel firebrand Abrar Omeish, a member of the far-left Fairfax County School Board, who made news last month when there was a demand for her to resign over a nasty anti-Israel tweet: Continue reading
A Fairfax County police car vandalized with spray paint in a 2016 incident.
by James A. Bacon
Steve Descano was elected Commonwealth Attorney of Fairfax County in 2019 on the promise that he would end mass incarceration by winding down the prosecution of marijuana possession and raising the threshold to $1,500 for larceny prosecutions. As he stated in his reform platform, “I will not ruin someone’s life because of an impulsive decision to steal an iPhone.”
It did not take long for his policies to spark a backlash. Charging Descano with pleading felonies to misdemeanors, a failure to punish reckless drivers, and abandoning victims of violent crimes, a Fairfax citizens group has launched a recall initiative.
With the publication of the Crime in Virginia 2020 report, we have the data to get a better feeling for what Descano was up to last year. The statistics for Virginia’s most populous county indicate that he was as good as his word — he significantly reduced prosecutions for shoplifting and drug-related crimes. The big question is whether Descano’s brand of social justice will make Fairfax County less livable for law-abiding, middle-class families. Continue reading
Departing Secretary of Finance Aubrey Layne
by Steve Haner
With one month to go in its fiscal year, Virginia has almost met its General Fund revenue target in the first eleven months, as the revenue bonanza described here before continues. Partly it is due to the strong economic recovery post-COVID, but it is also due to numerous increased tax rates or policy changes under Governor Ralph Northam.
With 11 months of the basic taxes now accounted for, the state has collected just a hair under $22 billion towards the $22.3 billion it estimated in the budget adopted last year and amended this winter. Compared to the same point four years ago, total GF revenue has grown a full one-third. With the deepest recession of the past century in between the comparison points.
The final numbers for June, which ends the fiscal year and may not be public until August, may change these trends, but only a bit: Sales and use tax collections are up 25% over four years, personal income tax collections are up 32% over four years, and corporate income taxes are up 91%. The underlying inflation for that period is about 9%, so the real growth is tremendous. Continue reading
An article in the today’s Wall Street Journal, “Innovationville, USA,” writes approvingly of universal incomes, citing no-strings-attached pilot programs in Stockton, Calif., Peterson, N.J., and… (drum roll)… Richmond, Va. The Richmond Resilience Initiative provides $500 per month to 18 working families who don’t qualify for other aid but who, in Mayor Levar Stoney’s estimation, don’t make a living wage.
I’ll concede that $500 a month isn’t a lot of money. And I’ll credit backers of the Richmond program for acknowledging that handing out too much moolah would dampen the incentive to work. However, many people back a more expansive program. For instance, Andrew Yang, an unsuccessful candidate for president and now a contender for mayor of New York, proposed a “freedom dividend” consisting of $1,000 monthly for each American adult.
I suppose it’s OK to conduct social experiments to see what families do with the extra money. We might learn something useful. But the famous admonition of Karl Marx comes to mind: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Continue reading
by James A. Bacon
Kieran Bhattacharya, a University of Virginia School of Medicine student who claims he was expelled for challenging left-wing political orthodoxy at the school, has filed new papers expanding upon his allegations. Among the more explosive charges, he asserts that he was twice committed against his will to psychiatric facilities, given antipsychotic medication, and once woke up from his tranquilized state to find himself in a car bound for a private psychiatric hospital in Petersburg.
UVa’s response to Bhattacharya’s “dissident speech” is “reminiscent of the infamous ‘treatment’ of dissidents in psychiatric hospitals in the former Soviet Union,” says the pleading, which was filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court in Charlottesville in support of a request for a jury trial.
Adding another new dimension to the lawsuit, Bhattacharya contended that his ex-girlfriend collaborated with med school officials to drum him out of school after he had broken up with her. He describes her as a controlling, manipulative and vindictive woman who boasted how she had gained revenge against two former boyfriends at Emory University by charging them with rape.
After reading the filing, one is inclined to believe that one of two things must be true. Either the UVa med school is sitting on the biggest scandal in its history or Kieran Bhattacharya is a young man in serious need of help. Continue reading
by Dick Hall-Sizemore
There was a scuffle on this blog a few days ago over the production of more hardwood seedlings by the Department of Forestry. There were some who questioned the efficacy of planting more trees in the attempt to mitigate climate change. Others questioned why the state should be subsidizing the production of seedlings in the first place.
Being an ardent fan of trees, I was intrigued, and I contacted the Department of Forestry to get some more background on the program. After getting the agency’s answers to my questions, I realized there is a bigger issue at play.
The bigger issue is the protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. The health of the Bay is affected by point source pollution and nonpoint source pollution. We have been able to deal fairly effectively with point source pollution, such as the discharges from wastewater treatment plants. Nonpoint source pollution is much trickier. Agricultural runoff and erosion constitute a large portion of the nonpoint source pollution affecting the Bay. Continue reading
Sources: “Crime in Virginia 2020” and The Washington Post.
by James A. Bacon
As protesters marched in many Virginia cities last year in protest of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., many Virginia politicians suggested that the kind of police abuses occurring in other states were endemic here in Virginia. The General Assembly enacted numerous laws to reduce mass incarceration and curtail perceived police abuses. All the protests and lawmaking occurred in a factual vacuum, however. Was there any truth to the proposition that Blacks were more likely than Whites to be killed by police here in Virginia? Is law enforcement in Virginia “systemically racist”? No one provided any data to confirm or falsify the proposition.
Data does exist. The Virginia State Police published Monday its “Crime in Virginia 2020” report. The report devotes a section to officer-involved shootings, of which there were 13 resulting in fatalities and 19 in injuries. The report does not identify the race of the police shooting victims, but by cross-referencing the published information with the Washington Post police shootings database, I was able to identify the race/ethnicity of 12 of the 13 men (they were all men) killed by police. Six were White, four Black, one Hispanic, and one Asian.
Do those numbers support the conclusion that police are more likely to resort to deadly violence against Blacks than Whites? It depends on what you use as your yardstick for comparison. Continue reading
Tuesday’s big winner: Terry McAuliffe. Photo credit: The Washington Post
by Chris Saxman
There is no sense doing a deep dive on Tuesday’s elections results because there is not a lot of depth to explore.
Somethings are just obvious.
In the end:
- Money talks and bullshit walks.
- Challengers don’t win – incumbents lose.
- The leadership of the Democratic Party of Virginia is firmly in control.
- There was ZERO ideological shift in either party.
- Base voters want fighters who can win. They are angry and want that anger represented. (Reminder – anger is fear based) Many vote Against rather than For.
- Legacy media continues to lose influence on voter behavior as they become more partisan.
- #1 data point from Tuesday? The similarity in Ralph Northam and Terry McAuliffe primary vote totals. 2017: Northam 303,531. 2021: McAuliffe 303,410. That’s the base of the Democratic Party of Virginia.
- Destiny might be more geography than demography.
And here we go… Continue reading
by DJ Rippert
The big lie. Various intellectuals, aided and abetted by the mainstream media, have repeatedly put forth the falsehood that funding for public K-12 education in America has been decreasing. In fact, the opposite is true. However, the number of times that false claims about defunding public education have been made, published and (eventually) retracted / corrected leaves one wondering whether these are uninformed errors or an effort to repeat a “big lie” in the hope that Americans will come to accept the lie.
Falsehood. Publication. Eventual correction. Repeat. An Op-Ed piece in the Washington Examiner penned by Corey DeAngelis documents disturbing cases of factual errors about education funding made by so-called experts and published by so-called professional news outlets. In each case, the error was eventually corrected. However, those corrections were made days after the original false statement. Continue reading
Labor Force Participation Rates, March 2021. Source: VEC Click for larger view. It represents the percentage of population of working age employed or seeking a job.
by Steve Haner
So many Virginia employers faltered or failed during 2020, the remaining companies may be charged a special tax of $95 on each of their own employees in 2022. It will cover the unemployment benefits paid to workers somebody else laid off, the highest so called “pool tax” ever imposed, more than double the amount collected following the previous recession in 2012.
The total unemployment insurance tax (average) may reach $360 per employee in 2022: A base tax of $249, the pool tax of $95 and a special “fund builder” tax of $16. That is more than 50% higher than the previous peak tax in 2012.
The figures emerged this morning as the Virginia Unemployment Commission staff briefed a legislative oversight panel on the financial health of the state’s beleaguered Unemployment Insurance program, swamped by a record number of claims in the COVID-19 recession and hampered by administrative failures in dealing with claims that needed extra attention.
For details, here is the UI Status Report presented today, following the usual format. VEC also provided more information on Virginia’s employment history over time, by region, industry, and locality. Continue reading
by Kerry Dougherty
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say Pharrell Williams is much more than a hugely successful rapper, musician and songwriter.
He’s something of a visionary.
Where others see insurmountable problems, Pharrell finds opportunity.
For instance, Virginia Beach struggled for years with the annual College Beach Weekend in April when tens of thousands of mostly African American students would flock to the beach for a three-day party.
Too many young people, too little to do plus an influx of troublemakers meant the celebration often turned violent. After years of problems, tensions between the city and the revelers were raw.
Enter Pharrell. Continue reading