Tag Archives: James A. Bacon

Dueling Headlines

Headline in today’s New York Times: “In Virginia Suburbs, Republicans Sound a Lot Like Democrats.”

Headline in today’s Washington Post: “Days Before the Election, Virginia Republicans Take Hard Right Turn.

— JAB

Map of the Day: Median Housing Values

Virginia median owner-occupied house values by census district. Source: StatChat blog. Click to enlarge.

The StatChat blog has published a fascinating map showing the median value of owner-occupied housing across Virginia by census tract. The map appears as part of an essay on the relationship between housing affordability and school quality, which I may blog about later. But in the meantime, I thought the map was worth publishing on its own terms.

There are no huge surprises here — the highest median values occur in Virginia’s major metropolitan areas, most notably Northern Virginia, and values are lowest in depressed rural areas, particularly Southside and Southwest Virginia. (The blog post does not contain a color key indicating what values the colors represent, but you still get an idea of relative values.) Continue reading

Wealthy Greenies Dump Millions into Virginia Elections

Virginia after the climate apocalypse… or after a green energy policy?

by Hans Bader

You may not be following Virginia’s legislative elections, which will occur on November 5. But liberal billionaires across the country are. They are spending millions to help progressives take control of the Virginia legislature.

The Washington Post reports that heaps of money are flowing into Virginia political campaigns ahead of the election.

As John Massoud notes, Charlottesville hedge-fund manager Michael Bills and his wife Sonjia Smith have injected $3 million in donations to Democratic candidates. He says this is to elect a legislature that enacts California-style alternative-energy rules. Such rules enrich investors in alternative-energy schemes by requiring utilities (and their customers) to pay for them. Massoud argues that such schemes are not “able to power a modern day economy. If allowed to have their way, we will soon be having the same blackouts that California is having.” PBS reports that 1.5 million people lost power in the latest round of California blackouts.

A group called Beyond Carbon, funded by a liberal out-of-state billionaire, is spending $335,000 this week alone on TV ads to defeat a single Republican member of the House of Delegates, Del. Chris Stolle, R-Virginia Beach. On first glance, Stolle may seem like an odd choice as a target, given that he backed legislation to mitigate the effects of climate change, making him a relative moderate in the state legislature. Continue reading

Virginia Air Pollution Continues Downward Trend

Switching topics from reading test scores, here’s a downward trend Virginians can appreciate. Air pollution emissions in the Old Dominion continued their long-term downward trend in 2017 for most categories of emissions, according to an analysis of federal data by the Consumer Energy Alliance, an organization of major energy consumers.

Between 1990 and 2017 Virginia has seen the following:

• 68 percent reduction in carbon monoxide (CO)
• 51 percent reduction in ammonia (NH3)
• 61 percent reduction in nitrogen oxides (NOx)
• 30 percent reduction in coarse particulate matter (PM10)
• 35 percent reduction in fine particulate matter (PM2.5)
• 89 percent reduction in sulfur dioxide (SO2)
• 60 percent reduction in volatile organic compounds (VOCs

The state has achieved these gains despite a 35% increase in population, a 252% increase in GDP, and a 4% increase in vehicle miles driven per capita, says the report. Continue reading

Virginia Reading Test Scores Plunge

by James A. Bacon

Reading scores of Virginia students taking the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) tests, a national standardized test, plummeted this year, and math scores declined as well. The average reading scores of Virginia fourth- and eighth-grade students on the national tests fell by four and six points, respectively. The average math scores for percent proficient fell by two points for both grades.

In releasing the results, Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane acknowledged that Virginia has a big problem. “The latest NAEP results — coupled with the declines we have seen during the last several years on our state reading tests — underscore the importance of the efforts already underway at the state and local levels to strengthen reading instruction for all students,” he said.

He implied that factors other than the Progressive “racial equity” policies he has championed are to blame. Rather, he said, “We must … recognize that Virginia’s schools are enrolling increasing numbers of students whose learning is impacted by poverty and trauma.”

The solution: $950 million in money for “equitable supports and services for all of the students who need them.” Continue reading

W&M Grad Students Plead for More Gruel

Please, sir, I want some more..

Working graduate students at the College of William & Mary are launching a campaign to demand better treatment, pay and benefits, reports WY Daily. The grad students want health, vision, and dental insurance paid as part of their yearly compensation and benefits, says Jasper Conner, a spokesman for the William & Mary Workers Union.

“The William & Mary Workers’ Union is also fighting for a living wage for all employees of the university, which would raise the annual pay of many workers by $4,000,” Conner said. Health care costs for graduate workers increased 11% this year. Members of the union plan to rally on campus Friday to bring attention to their demands.

This is just another example, as if any were needed, that American institutions of higher education, which profess a commitment to social equity, fail grotesquely short of their own ideals. The higher-ed labor force is a hierarchical caste system. An aristocracy of highly compensated superstar professors are the Brahmans. Under them, there exists a sub-hierarchy of assistant, associate and full professors; a tier of “instructors” who aren’t on the tenure track; a lower tier of poorly paid adjunct professors; and the lowest of the low, graduate students who teach in return for meager stipends. Graduate students comprise, in effect, a class of indentured servants. No health benefits? Really? No wonder the W&M graduate students are unionizing.

— JAB

Revamping Virginia History as Oppression Studies

My beef with the teaching of Virginia history — not enough attention to Bacon’s Rebellion!

Virginia schools do a poor job of teaching the history of African-Americans in the United States and Virginia, says Governor Ralph Northam. Black history is “difficult, complex and often untold,” he said yesterday when addressing the Virginia Commission on African American History Education, a body he created 10 months ago in the wake of his blackface scandal. Black history in schools is often “inadequate” and “inaccurate,” he said.

Reports the Virginia Mercury:

Northam said one of the most pressing issues he hopes the commission will address is casting the end of slavery as the end of oppression for black people. The Jim Crow Era, Massive Resistance and mass incarceration have followed, he said.

“My perception is that when we talk about black oppression, I think a lot of us need to understand that concept a lot better and this needs to start with the education of our children,” Northam said. “Black oppression is alive and well today, it’s just in a different form.”

After reading Northam’s critique of how Virginia schools teach state history, I thought I’d see for myself: What do the schools teach? What are students expected to master for their Standards of Learning exams? What I found surprised me. Northam’s description might have been an accurate representation of how history was taught when he was a pupil, but it bears no resemblance to what’s taught today. Continue reading

Fairfax County: A School Board Election that Truly Matters

by James A. Bacon

The implementation of social-justice policies in public schools is gaining momentum in urban and suburban school districts across Virginia. Nowhere is the trend more evident than in Fairfax County, which administers the state’s largest school system.

The Democrats’ social-equity agenda has inspired a spirited resistance this year. Republican School Board candidates contend that the Democratic-dominated board intends to re-engineer the racial and income mix of the county’s public schools by re-drawing school district boundaries, even if it means busing some children to distant schools.

Fanning fears is the “One Fairfax” policy adopted by the board that “provides a framework to advance equity.” School board members and senior administrators have made clear their intention to apply the “One Fairfax” lens to the next redrawing of school boundaries.

Ideological Progressives have many attributes, but humility is not one of them. Despite a decade’s worth of policies promoting diversity and inclusion, the racial gap in academic achievement in Fairfax schools has gotten worse, not better. But Progressives are doubling down on failed policies: What’s needed, they insist, is more of the same. The likely consequence will be more of the same — an even wider chasm in academic performance. Progressivism is the problem, not the solution. Continue reading

This Is What Meritocracy Looks Like in 2019

Breakdown of the class of 2023 admissions to the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.

The Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology has published the admission rates, broken down by ethnicity and gender, for the the 2023 class. Nearly three-quarters of the students admitted to the elite Fairfax County institution, one of the most highly regarded public schools in the country, were classified as Asian. One in five was white, and only 8% belonged to other groups.

The breakdowns by gender and race are little changed from previous years.

Despite the marked under-representation of Hispanics and blacks — sadly, so few blacks were admitted that they were lumped in with “other” — Thomas Jefferson HS’s admission policies appear to place a premium on scholastic aptitude. I admire the school for hewing to meritocratic principles in this age of racial bean-counting and the reflexive attribution of racism and discrimination to any disparity in racial statistics. I do wonder, though, how long the school can withstand the hurricane-force winds of change. Continue reading

Dominion Goes Whole Hog for Waste-to-Energy

Hog waste farm: from methane polluter to renewable energy source.

by James A. Bacon

Dominion Energy and Smithfield Foods are investing a half billion dollars to capture methane from hog farms and convert it to “renewable natural gas.” The partnership aims to become the “largest renewable natural gas supplier in the U.S.,” according to a press release issued Wednesday.

A few days ago, I noted how Dominion had sold a $2 billion stake in its Cove Point liquefied natural gas project as part of a larger restructuring of the company away from businesses exposed to market forces in favor of regulated businesses like electric utilities and gas distribution companies. I wondered if Dominion now sees its competitive advantage as its ability to manipulate the regulatory and legislative process.

This new venture, Align Renewable Natural Gas, suggests that Dominion hasn’t abandoned risk-taking ventures entirely. Dominion is making a $250 million bet that a “waste-to-energy” model, demonstrated only in pilot projects, can be implemented nationally. I don’t recall the company having taken a risk of this magnitude to create an entirely new business model before. Continue reading

Disorderly-Conduct Complaints in Schools Surge 45% in Past Five Years

by James A. Bacon

Who possibly could have predicted this? After years of “racial equity” and “restorative justice” disciplinary policies in Virginia school districts, discipline in schools has gotten worse, at least as measured by the number of disorderly conduct charges filed by school resource officers.

The number of disorderly cases filed increased from 360 in 2016 to 523 this fiscal year, a four-year increase of 45%, reports the Virginia Mercury, citing data from a report by the Legal Aid Justice Center. Black students, representing 22% of the state’s school population, account for 62% of the complaints. Charges against black girls have increased in “startling” numbers, the study observes.

The Legal Aid Justice Center’s proffered solution? Rewrite the disorderly conduct law to “stop criminalizing childhood behavior and unnecessarily pushing youth into our criminal legal system.”

Despite the imposition of therapeutic disciplinary policies designed explicitly to reduce the black-white gap in in-school arrests, out-of-school suspensions and in-school suspensions, the gap is as vast as ever. Logically, one might conclude from this data that these ideologically driven policies are not working and it’s time to re-evaluate them. But there is no sign of such a reappraisal in the Legal Aid Justice Center’s report. To the contrary, the proffered solution is to deprive teachers and administrators of another tool for maintaining order in schools. Continue reading

How to Integrate Richmond Schools: More Charters

by James A. Bacon

The Richmond Public Schools school board is desperate to get more diversity in its schools, meaning it wants more white kids in schools dominated by African-Americans. The board has been considering a proposal to smear the cream, so to speak: spread the limited supply of white kids, concentrated in two elementary schools, among more schools. Another option, described in the Richmond Times-Dispatch today, is to create a “weighted lottery” for open enrollment, giving preferential treatment to students from low-income students trying to get into schools that aren’t in their neighborhood zones.

One option that the superintendent and school board have steadfastly ignored is creating more charter schools. Richmond’s only charter school, the Patrick Henry School of Sciences and Arts, is about as integrated as you can get. The 318 students enrolled in 2018-19 were 41% white and 56% black, according to Virginia Department of Education statistics. Forty percent of the student body is classified as disadvantaged. In other words, Patrick Henry fits progressives’  dream of mixing poor African-American kids with better-off white kids.

Why don’t Richmond school officials look at Patrick Henry as a model? Could that school be doing something different than other public schools?

Continue reading

Taxes Likely to Go up in Virginia

by Hans Bader

Taxes are likely to increase in Virginia after the Democrats take control of its state legislature this fall. Democratic spending proposals would add at least a billion dollars annually to the state budget. These costly proposals can’t be paid for without raising taxes, because the cost of existing state programs is already rising faster than state revenue. That leaves too little money to pay for new programs, unless there’s a tax increase.

More importantly, state revenue will shrink due to several labor policies that Democrats are likely to enact. Those policies will eliminate 100,000 jobs or more. Job losses reduce state income tax revenue, because unemployed people have less income. They also cut state sales tax revenue, because unemployed people have less money to spend. The result will be a growing gap between higher spending and lower revenue. To eliminate that gap, the state will eventually have to raise tax rates a lot.

The State Board of Education recently proposed increasing education spending by $950 million. Unfortunately, that proposal also contains a provision that undermines safeguards against wasteful government spending. It states that in the future, the “Board would no longer have authority to withhold these funds,” even when a school system fails to meet “state accountability standards and fails to implement corrective action plans.” Continue reading

University Faculties: Cesspools of Sexual Misconduct?

Source: “Report on the AAU Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct”

by James A. Bacon

As Glenn Reynolds often asks on the Instapundit blog, why are liberal institutions such cesspools of racism and sexism? His provocative gag line comes to mind after perusing the 2019 Campus Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Misconduct by the Association of American Universities.

The survey, based on polling from 33 universities including the University of Virginia, found that “sexual assault and misconduct remain far too prevalent among students at all levels of study,” writes Mary Sue Coleman, AAU President. But even a brief dip into the data suggests that the sexual assault and misconduct is not confined to students.

States the study: “Graduate and professional students were [more likely than undergrads] to be subject to sexually harassing behavior by a faculty member or instructor.” Among graduate and professional women, 24% of the sexual harassment incidents were at the hands of a faculty member or instructor. For male graduate students, the percentage was 18%.

Stalking, apparently, is another common phenomenon on college campuses.  Among women graduate/professional students, 6.5% reported that a faculty member stalked them. Very creepy. Continue reading

Virginia Cheap with Incentives… Back in 2012

by James A. Bacon

According to an in-depth study based on 2012 data, Virginia dedicated a lower percentage of its GDP to economic-development incentives than all but three of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Old Dominion’s $57 million in incentives that year amounted to a measly .0133% of the state’s economy — a little more than one-hundredth of one percent.

Crucially, Virginia also ranked 5th nationally in its consistency in enforcing agreements to make sure companies live up to commitments regarding level of investment, job creation and job quality. On the other hand, the state ranked only 18th in transparency in online disclosure.

So concludes Kenneth P. Thomas, a University of Missouri political scientist in a policy brief published by the Mercatus Center, “The State of State and Local Subsidies to Business.Continue reading