Tag Archives: James A. Bacon

Bacon Bits: Government Failure, Private Initiative

Will Metro ever get its act together? The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority has pulled the 7000 series of rail cars from service after a derailment on the Blue Line and discovery of more than two dozen wheel-assembly defects similar to those that had contributed to the accident, reports the Washington Post. “The potential for fatalities and serious injuries was significant,” said National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy, “This could have resulted in a catastrophic event.” The news represents the latest in a long series of setbacks for the commuter rail system, which serves Northern Virginia. It comes at at time when transit officials were hoping that ridership, devastated by the COVID-19 epidemic on top of a history of safety and service issues, might rebound. But never fear, the federal government has a printing press and it has limitless dollars to prop up failed enterprises.

K-12 education in crisis. The crisis in K-12 education has far deeper roots than the COVID-19 epidemic. Nationally, 13-year-olds saw unprecedented declines in both reading and math between 2012 and 2020, according to scores released a week ago by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Despite relentless efforts to close the racial achievement gap, the “Nation’s Report Card” shows that Blacks are falling behind even faster than Whites, Asians, and Hispanics. Declines were most severe in the bottom 10th percentile. “It’s really a matter for national concern, this high percentage of students who are not reaching even what I think we’d consider the lowest levels of proficiency,” said George Bohrnstedt, a senior vice president and institute fellow at the American Institutes for Research, as quoted in the 74 Million blog.

Dumb and dumber. Speaking of the NAEP scores, fewer than half of Virginia’s 4th graders score “proficient” or higher  in the NAEP tests. By the 8th grade, they fall even farther behind. Here are the most recent numbers (2019): Continue reading

The Alumni Rebellion Gains Momentum

First, Stuart Taylor and Ed Yingling (with Princetonians for Free Speech) got a column published Monday in the Wall Street Journal about the formation of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance. Fox News followed with a story yesterday (seen above). Since then, Inside Higher Ed, the leading higher-ed trade publication, has run a news story of its own.

The response has been fantastic. Yingling has been overwhelmed with inquiries. The number of subscribers to The Jefferson Council blog jumped 50% overnight.

If anyone in Virginia has an interest in starting a university alumni group to address issues centered on free speech and intellectual diversity, check out the Alliance website. Or contact Yingling directly at edyingling[at]comcast.net. Continue reading

No CRT to See Here, Move Along Now

From the Critical-Race-Theory-is-a-conservative-bogeyman department:

Celebrate #UnityWeek and join panel discussions where you can engage in healthy and positive conversations about unity. Featured for Unity Week is the “Stamped from the Beginning Community Read Project,” a Virginia Beach Public Library (VBPL) read program series featuring “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America” by Ibram X. Kendi and its youth and teen adaptations. Continue reading

Another Assault on Virginia Landlords

HUD listening session soliciting input from landlords.

by James A. Bacon

The Office of the Attorney General has filed lawsuits accusing 13 Richmond-area real estate companies of discriminating against prospective renters who receive federal housing vouchers.

“Every single Virginian has the right to a safe, comfortable home, regardless of whether they have some assistance paying their rent,” said Attorney General Mark Herring. “Blocking Virginians who would use a [voucher] to pay their rent is outright housing discrimination and will not be tolerated in Virginia.”

Housing vouchers allow recipients to escape public housing projects and move freely in the private rental market. But participation in the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD program is voluntary, and many landlords opt out. Herring views such behavior as a form of housing “discrimination,” a way to screen out potentially undesirable tenants, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. While federal law does not prohibit discrimination based on the source of income, the practice may violate a state anti-discrimination law enacted in 2020. These lawsuits put the Virginia law to the test.

What could go wrong? Continue reading

Alumni Power

Image credit: Brent Nelson, Flickr

by James A. Bacon

The university alumni rebellion, which first took root in Virginia, is going national.

Washington & Lee University was the first higher-ed institution in the country, to my knowledge, where alumni organized to fight the leftward drift of their alma mater. The W&L group, known as the Generals Redoubt, was followed quickly by The Jefferson Council (to which I belong) at the University of Virginia and The Spirit of VMI at the Virginia Military Institute.

Now the W&L and UVa groups have joined with newly formed alumni organizations at Princeton University, Cornell University and Davidson College to form the Alumni Free Speech Association. While each institution has its unique, parochial issues, they share a common resolve to stand up for free speech, free expression, independent inquiry, and intellectual diversity in the face of a doctrinaire “woke” ideology that, in increasingly totalitarian fashion, dictates the permissible range of opinions people are allowed to express.

Graduates are creating new organizations from scratch because the incumbent alumni organizations almost universally have failed to represent all of the alumni. They have been co-opted by the university presidents and turned into fund-raising arms. If the University of Virginia alumni association is any indication — and I hear the same critique of the associations at W&L and VMI — they function as rah-rah-aren’t-we-great propaganda arms for their university administrations and sugar-coat the march toward leftist orthodoxy. Continue reading

Alumni of the World Unite!

The Free Speech Wall in downtown Charlottesville

This press release was issued today by the Alumni Free Speech Alliance, of which The Jefferson Council is a founding member. I serve as vice president-communications of the Council. — JAB

Millions of college and university alumni around the country are dismayed by the intolerance of unpopular viewpoints at their alma maters, and many have begun to fight back.

Alumni have organized groups at five of America’s most prestigious higher-ed institutions — Cornell University, Davidson College, Princeton University, the University of Virginia, and the Washington & Lee University – to defend free speech, academic freedom, and viewpoint diversity in college campuses. Today those groups are announcing that they have joined forces under the banner of the Alumni Free Speech Alliance to launch a national effort to mobilize alumni.

“Free speech and academic freedom are critical to the advancement of knowledge and to the success of our colleges and universities,” said Edward Yingling, a co-founder of the Princeton alumni group. “Yet these basic principles are under attack today at schools across the country.”

(See the column co-authored by Yingling that was published in today’s Wall Street Journal.) Continue reading

Virginia Elections: Endanger Kids, Lose Your Seat

by Kerry Dougherty

I tried to warn you that kids would get hurt. I tried to warn the governor.

On February 2, 2020 we published “Insane Bill Will Endanger Kids” after Democrats in the General Assembly passed HB257, reversing a law that had compelled school principals to report cases of sexual battery, stalking, assault and battery and threats against school personnel and schools themselves.

What could possibly go wrong when the very people with an interest in making their schools look safe — principals — were allowed to sweep crimes under the school desks?

I begged the governor not to sign this pile of legislative fecal matter, but he did on March 12.

Of course he did. This is just one more part of the left’s soft-on-crime, perps-first agenda.

Now this: At least two girls were sexually attacked in Loudoun County public schools and the alleged rapist was transferred between schools. The public only found out when the outraged father of one girl went public. Continue reading

Shootings Are Spiking? Let’s Blame COVID!

U.S. Senator Mark Warner. Photo credit: WTVR

by James A. Bacon

It came as a big surprise to U.S. Senator Mark Warner to hear about the spike in violence occurring in the City of Richmond. The Senator, who last lived in the city when he was governor in 2006, met with what WTVR-TV describes as a gathering of government and community leaders.

During the meeting, VCU Medical trauma surgeon Michael Aboutanos said that VCU is experiencing a 121% increase in gunshot-wound victims from across the metro Richmond area. “This is a serious issue,” he said, “One we cannot ignore.”

“I didn’t think I realized the numbers were that astronomical,” Warner said.

The murder rate, which passed the 60 mark this month, has not yet reached levels seen during the crack-cocaine epidemic, when murders in the 1980s routinely exceeded 100, giving Richmond one of the highest homicide rates (as a percentage of population) in the United States. But it is more than double that of the low-water mark of 31 homicides achieved in the post-crack year of 2008. Continue reading

The Emerging “Lost Generation” of Students

Source: Virginia Department of Education

by James A. Bacon

Virginia schools, like schools across the country, experienced an educational meltdown during the COVID-19 epidemic. The relatively comforting news is that, according to Virginia Department of Education, Virginia’s graduating seniors significantly out-performed their peers nationally. Fifty-six percent of Virginia test takers met all four of the college-readiness benchmarks — English, Reading, Math and Science — compared to 25% nationally.

Here’s what Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane had to say about the results: “Given the impact of the pandemic on participation, the latest ACT results represent a snapshot of achievement during a challenging year. But even so, the ACT – like the more widely taken SAT – shows that Virginia students continue to demonstrate a much higher level of college readiness than their peers nationwide.”

Arguably, the ACT scores show no such thing, a point I’ll get around to making in a moment. But let’s pause and consider the implication of that fact that only 56% of test takers showed across-the-board college readiness. That’s out of the mere 9% of Virginia high school seniors who took the test — presumably those who are most serious about attending college. What does it say about the quality of education when only 56% of those students are fully college ready?

Janet Godwin, CEO of the nonprofit ACT organization, sounded downright pessimistic in the ACT press release summarizing the national results (my bold face): Continue reading

COVID, School Closings and the Real Racism

Click thumbnail for full image.

by James A. Bacon

If you’re looking for evidence of “systemic racism” in Virginia schools, you can find it in a table produced by Matt Hurt, executive director of the Comprehensive Instructional Program, and published in the previous post. The table shows the extraordinary decline in in-person instruction that took place in the 2020-21 school year.

The Code of Virginia requires 990 hours of instruction yearly. The statewide average of in-person learning for White students was 439 hours. The statewide average for Black students was 338 hours.

Put another way, Black students received 100 fewer hours of in-person instruction on average than White students, and 59 fewer hours than the statewide average for all students. By all accounts, distance learning was a massive failure for poor children, and hybrid learning not much better.

If you define “racism” by differential outcomes, that’s about as racist as it gets.

But the reason for this racial disparity has nothing to do with the usual left-wing bogeyman — ubiquitous white racism — and everything to do with “progressive” politics. The racial disparities in in-person learning were the direct outcome of school-closing policies driven by COVID hysteria and the teachers, teacher unions, parents and politicians most sensitive to that hysteria. Continue reading

A New Form of Sexual Identity Enters the Lexicon: Gender Fluid

Scott Smith, whose daughter was raped in a Loudoun County school, is shown here being escorted out of a Loudoun County school board meeting. He was subsequently charged with two misdemeanors and sentenced to 10 days in jail, all suspended.

by James A. Bacon

Loudoun Now has confirmed key details of the Daily Wire expose describing the ordeal of plumber Scott Smith and his family after his daughter was sexually assaulted in a high school bathroom by a boy dressed in a skirt.

Yesterday I refrained from going ballistic on this story, which was based on the reporting of a single, conservative news outlet. The account of a girl being assaulted by a transgender student given admittance to the girls’ restroom fit the conservative anti-transgender narrative so perfectly — the incident is exactly what conservatives have predicted — that I wanted to see reporting from another source before passing judgment. Other conservative publications have jumped into the fray, but we now have confirmation from the home-town paper.

One telling detail in the Loudoun County account warrants greater attention. According to Smith, who professes to be largely apolitical and not part of the conservative protest crowd packing school board meetings, the youth who raped his daughter identified as “gender fluid.” Continue reading

VB School Board Shoots Down Resolution

by James A. Bacon

Last night the Virginia Beach School Board voted down 4-to-7 a proposal that would clarify school board policy regarding training and teaching about race and racism.

Among other guidelines, the resolution would have prohibited teachers from training, teaching or promoting, among other propositions, the ideas (a) that any individual by virtue of his or her race or skin color is inherently racist, privileged or oppressive, (b) that any individual bears responsibility for the actions committed by other members of his or her race, skin color or religion, and (c) that the United States is an inherently racist country. (Read the full document here.) Continue reading

No Need to Call in Feds, Says Virginia School Board Association

Protest at a Loudoun County school board meeting. Photo credit: Loudoun Now.

by James A. Bacon

It became national news when the National School Board Association (NASB) asked the Biden administration to investigate threats and violence against school board members around the country. The Justice Department announced it would collaborate with the FBI and local law enforcement to prosecute criminal behavior. The views of the national association did not reflect the views of at least 13 state organizations, including Virginia’s, reports National Review

The Virginia School Boards Association made clear in a letter published last week that it provided no information to the national organization and was never informed that a letter would be sent. The NASB was not the first decision with which the Virginia association disagrees, the Virginia group wrote, and it “probably will not be the last.” Continue reading

Bacon Bits: The Political Class in Action

Is Charlottesville governable? Charlottesville City Manager Chip Boyles has announced his resignation, making him the fifth interim or full-time city manager to leave the city since 2018, reports the Daily Progress. “The public disparagement shown by several community members and Mayor [Nikuyah] Walker has begun to negatively effect [sic] my personal health and well-being,” he wrote to City Council. Walker responded by saying Boyles should have been fired. “You shouldn’t have been able to sleep at night because you are a liar,” she said in a Facebook video. Walker, who gained notoriety for penning a poem likening Charlottesville to rape, has herself said she will not run for re-election. Boyle and Walker butted heads over many issues, including his firing of the city’s female, African-American police chief. One councilman told the Daily Progress that in the opinion of an executive search firm contacted last year, “we were not likely to be able to hire anybody with council as dysfunctional as it is.”

It was an innocent mistake, yer honor. Chesapeake Board Chair Victoria Proffitt, who had been laid off from her adjunct math teaching job at Tidewater Community College, has returned $984 in unemployment benefits she was overpaid by the Virginia Employment Commission. She attributed the error to a VEC oversight, but a special prosecutor had contended she was “either being intentionally dishonest or was just exceedingly careless,” says the Virginian-Pilot. Meanwhile… Continue reading

Descent into Madness: Loudoun County Edition

by James A. Bacon

Two weeks ago the National School Boards Association (NASB) appealed in a highly publicized letter to President Biden to do something to stop the “threats and acts of violence against public school children, public school board members, and other public school district officials.” Attorney General Merrick Garland said the FBI would respond to the challenge. “Threats against public servants are not only illegal,” he said, “they run counter to our nation’s core values.”

What heinous events prompted the intervention of the FBI into local law enforcement matters? The NASB spelled out numerous “acts of malice, violence and threats” by parents irate about the rise of race demogoguery, transgender politics, masking policies, and pornography in libraries.

One individual in Illinois was arrested for aggravated battery. In Michigan an individual yelled a Nazi salute (undoubtedly in the same sarcastic spirit of the Nazi salute that set off a Twitter Outrage Mob in the Netflix series “The Chair”), and another “prompted the board to call a recess.” In Virginia, elaborated the NASB letter, “an individual was arrested, another man was ticketed for trespassing, and a third person was hurt during a school board meeting discussion.”

According to the news story the NASB linked to, the individual in Virginia who “was arrested” was a certain Scott T. Smith. The video clip below shows what kind of threat he posed to Loudoun County School Board members.

Continue reading