Tag Archives: James Sherlock

Teach for America in Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

One commenter on my last article was highly critical of Teach for America (TFA). I cannot let that go without refutation.

Look at the map of TFA places to work.  

You will see that in Virginia only the inner suburbs of the D.C. area have access to those highly motivated young people. Alexandria is the first school division in Virginia to partner with Teach For America. It is actively recruiting TFA volunteers.

Now look at North Carolina on the same map. Read the Charlotte-Piedmont Triad TFA web page.

Now look at the Petersburg teacher charts again. Continue reading

Petersburg School Board Folds on Union Bargaining

by James C. Sherlock

The Petersburg Education Association has a plan for collective bargaining.

So, once, did the school board. Unanimously.

We have been looking for signs of strength in the Petersburg School Board so we can believe it will take strong and innovative measures to improve the city’s dreadful schools.

It is the wrong place to look. The union routed the board on collective bargaining without resistance.

Petersburg School Board – Official Photo

The state, during the Democratic interregnum in the General Assembly and governorship, made local government collective bargaining optional.

On June 21st, the Petersburg board passed a resolution for teachers, guidance counselors and librarians who hold a teaching license to have a form of collective bargaining.

As reported by The Progress-Index’s Joyce Chu,

The resolution does not allow teachers the ability to negotiate their wages or benefits, limiting the scope of negotiations to hours and scheduling, health and safety, and work rules.

Just a guess, but that board likely did not vote originally to allow negotiations on wages or benefits for a pretty good reason. Continue reading

Petersburg Public Schools Cheat Children of Their Futures

by James C. Sherlock

We like to think of ourselves as civilized people.

Virginia and America are at an advanced stage of social and cultural development.

Aren’t we?

For the children of Petersburg, we are not. We continue to let them quite publicly and measurably be cheated of their futures by their public schools.

Queue the excuses for bad schools. Whatever list you can come up with, it’s not good enough. We are not civilized if we, as a state, continue to let it happen to children with no other option.

Virginia is unique in that our state constitution explicitly gives local school divisions control of their schools.

Virginia passed a law in 2013 that created a body to take over schools failing to receive accreditation or what is now accreditation with conditions for three consecutive years. It was found unconstitutional.

I don’t know why the constitution was written without some provision for dealing with failed schools and school divisions after long-term failure.

But it was, and it was a mistake. We need to change the constitution to give the children of Petersburg and in other failing schools a chance in life.

That goal is, and must be, worth the effort it will take to accomplish it. Continue reading

New Bad SOL Data Bring A New Youngkin Administration Plan for Mitigating Learning Losses in Virginia Public Schools

by James C. Sherlock

The Governor announced today that he and the General Assembly came together on a bipartisan basis to invest $418 million to tackle student learning loss.

The Virginia Department of Education recommends school divisions allocate the $418 million “to proven programs that will achieve the greatest student impact—approximately 70% for high-dose tutoring, 20% for Virginia Literacy Act acceleration, and 10% for chronic absenteeism response.”

Press releases today from both from the Governor’s Office and the Virginia Department of Education provide both a lot of data and a plan to assess.

From VDOE’s2022-2023 Test Results Show Virginia Students Continue to Struggle with COVID-Related Learning Loss in Reading and Math”

Today the Virginia Department of Education released the 2022-23 Virginia Assessment Results, demonstrating significant and persistent learning loss in reading and math for Virginia students in grades 3-8. More than half of 3rd-8th graders either failed or are at risk of failing their reading SOL exam, and nearly two-thirds of 3rd-8th graders either failed, or are at risk of failing, their math SOL exam….

In 2022-2023, the number of chronically absent students doubled from 2018-2019.

VDOE has also posted the school quality profiles to present the 2022-23 data.  So you can look at your local school division or school. Continue reading

The Virginia State Budget and the Rising Costs of Registered Nurses

by James C. Sherlock

I was asked yesterday by a reader about the relationship between nursing homes, rising registered nurse salaries and the new Virginia budget agreement.

Good questions. Virginia’s workforce includes nearly 70,000 registered nurses.

The state pays its workers, but it also pays its Medicaid share for private sector nurses. Pay for private sector workers is based upon market conditions. The market wage for registered nurses nationwide increased dramatically during COVID.

Perhaps the only good thing to come out of that mess was that registered nurses, of whom Virginia has 11% fewer than demand calculated by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, got very large pay and bonus raises, and the new wage points appear to have stuck.

If the laws of economics work here, that will over time increase the number of nurses if we can educate and train them in the required numbers.

The latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for all states show that the median wage for an RN in Virginia was $79,700 a year. In Northern Virginia portion of the D.C. metro area, the median was $92,800.  The underlying data are a couple of years old.

Wages and bonuses can vary a lot among Virginia hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, nursing school staff and government employees, and are higher or lower depending on specialty. The private sector offers $10,000 to  $20,000 signing bonuses paid out after the first year.

Employers of course must pay payroll taxes and other expenses related to employees, and thus their costs will generally exceed $100,000 per RN.

Virginia RNs are still underpaid compared to national figures. The mean annual wage for America’s 3 million registered nurses in May was $89,010 compared to Virginia’s $79,900.

The federal Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services, aware of some of the questionable business models of bad actors in the nursing home industry, published last week a proposed rule to both increase the minimum number of RNs in nursing facilities and to require all nursing facilities to reveal every year how much of the Medicare and Medicaid payouts go to salaries and related expenses.

So, Medicare and Medicaid costs will go up yet again. Continue reading

The Decidedly Unintuitive Student Debt of Undergrads upon Graduation from Virginia’s Public 4-Year Colleges and Universities

William and Mary

by James C. Sherlock

I had never until now looked at college costs from the perspective of the new graduate, as opposed to his or her parents.

But it is fair to say that many look closely at their debt and their incomes after graduation and are taken aback, whether or not they borrow yet more to go on to graduate or professional schools.

So, I have examined available state data on student debt at graduation of the undergrads at Virginia’s public 4-year colleges and universities between 2016 and 2021.

If you expected the results that you will see here on their debts at graduation, you are much more informed that I was when I started.

Some are startling, at least to me. Continue reading

Changes in Student Populations and Choices of Majors in 4-Year Colleges and Universities 2010-2023 Challenge Virginia Schools

Virginia Union University

by James C. Sherlock

Tastes change, and with them trends.

Between fall 2010 and fall 2021, total undergraduate enrollment in degree-granting postsecondary institutions in America decreased by 15% percent (from 18.1 million to 15.4 million students).

In Virginia’s 4-year public colleges and universities, the drop was 8% in that same period, right at the national average for state schools.

Virginia’s HBCU’s, except for the highest ranked, Hampton University, have fought the trend and increased their student populations dramatically recently.

The Great Recession baby bust arrives as a freshman student cliff in 2025.

National trends. The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data on enrollment in undergraduate majors in 4-year public and private institutions of higher education (IHEs) show significant shifts in majors between 2010 and 2023.

There are winner and loser programs, with implications for staffing and perhaps offering a data basis for my magnet schools suggestion.

Between 2010 and 2023, undergraduate majors in:

  1. liberal arts and social sciences continued to decline;
  2. engineering majors have been in serious decline since 2019;
  3. health professions and related programs, having seen huge increases between 2010 and 2019, and physical sciences with smaller increases in those same years, since then are in decline;
  4. technology continues to gain, even faster since 2019, possibly signaling a shift from engineering to technology majors for the same types of students;
  5. Psychology, flat between 2010 and 2019, is in a major uptrend since.

Adjustments within higher education are clearly necessary to accommodate the declines in student populations, the coming student cliff and shifting educational preferences by students.

Rational adjustments are clearly identifiable but rarely seen in practice. Because administrations and faculty oppose them. The ramifications: Continue reading

Huge Swings in Student Populations Among Virginia’s 4-year Public Colleges and Universities Have Consequences

University of Mary Washington

by James C. Sherlock

I have previously in this series on Virginia’s public institutions of higher learning (IHE’s) used the term “cannibalization” to describe some getting bigger and some getting smaller, a few much smaller, in terms of student populations.

I will here provide the numbers to back that up.

While the total undergraduates dropped 1.5% (minus 2,572) in the system between the fall of 2018 and the fall of 2022, the increase in graduate students (plus 3,604) made up for it and the total campus population changed 0.4%.

Basically flat.

But those system numbers mask huge swings in student populations, both undergraduate and total, among the 15 schools. The data compiled in that spreadsheet are sourced from the State Council on Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV).

The trends have enormous consequences for Virginia’s 4-year colleges and universities, both those that are growing and those that are shrinking.

The same trends have easily predicted consequences for Virginia students if not reversed. Continue reading

Virginia State Colleges and Universities Slouching Towards a Cliff

University of Mary Washington

by James C. Sherlock

The economist Herb Stein once said that if something cannot go on forever, it will stop.

The University of West Virginia has just stopped to take stock.

Facing a $45 million shortfall, it had to cut programs. Instead of taking the unthinking way out — assigning a cut target to each department — it restructured.

The university shut down nearly 10% of its majors entirely. The axe fell most directly on the humanities. The Athletic Department was told it was on its own for funding.

President Gee did not want a bailout, figuring it was time to bite the bullet. He and his board decided to emphasize the programs in demand and let go those which could not attract enough students to justify their costs.

Virginia’s portfolio of institutions of higher learning (IHEs) faces challenges, some unprecedented, from at least a half dozen different sources.

Eventually, sooner rather than later, we will have to deal with them as a state. Virginia’s state “Plan” for its IHEs is not helpful.

This issue needs detail for discussion, and I will provide some here. Continue reading

Who Knew?

Henrico Doctors Hospital courtesy HCA

by James C. Sherlock

I just came across a fact that surprised me considering how much I have studied Virginia hospitals.

Henrico Doctors’ Hospital with 767 beds and CJW Medical Center with 758 beds, both in Richmond, rank numbers five and six in size in the entire 180-hospital empire of HCA, the largest private hospital system in America.

Together they represent HCA’s largest market presence by far.

Go Richmond.

Impressions from a Weekend in Charlottesville

by James C. Sherlock

Sometimes, things just force their way into your consciousness.

My wife and I were in Charlottesville this weekend. We were not there to visit the University, but its continuing construction overwhelms both the senses and attempts to get from A to B. Most of the growth is vertical — very vertical — on land that the University owns on or adjacent to the central Grounds.

Drive down Jefferson Park Avenue for a sense of the scale of it. Look straight up. Go to the intersection of Rt. 29 and 250 to see a new 14-acre complex under construction.

There is a sense that there is never to be an end to it.

There is certainly nothing to suggest a considered approach to growth in the University’s Strategic Plan. Sinclair Lewis recognized the symptoms a century ago.

No room was found in the Plan for any possibility of stopping doing something for which there is no longer sufficient demand in order to do something new in existing buildings.

Instead, University infrastructure growth seems on a self-generating loop — an idea for a new building, the land identified, a search for donors, an alumnus writes a check to buy immortality (unless the donor is later “cancelled” by the left), and voilà, some of the initial funding, if not the long-term sustaining money, is found. Skilled construction workers are brought in by the contractors who build at such scale, who then leave when the job is complete.

Replay. Continue reading

Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need Program – A New Sheriff in Town

by James C. Sherlock

Everywhere counterproductive to competition, innovation and cost, Virginia’s Certificate of Public Need (COPN) program also has proven antithetical to quality and safety in nursing homes.

A thorough 2022 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine on improving nursing home quality had this to say about state Certificate of Need (CON) programs:

Certificate-of-need regulations and construction moratoria do not appear to have had their intended effect of holding down Medicaid nursing home spending; rather, these laws can discourage innovation and decrease access.

Certificate-of-need regulations may contribute to the perpetuation of larger nursing homes.

Despite the prominent role of nursing home oversight and regulation, the evidence base for its effectiveness in ensuring a minimum standard of quality is relatively modest.

The role of Virginia’s COPN program is as counterproductive to nursing home quality as is imaginable. Remember, COPN decisions happen before the state and federal regulators of the operations of nursing homes even get into the game.

Virginia’s COPN program is a statutory incumbent protection regime across all of its regulated targets. But it has gotten especially bad results with nursing homes, which by nearly every measure are among the worst in America.

In Virginia, the only realistic way to increase the size of a nursing facility is by COPN approval of the transfer of beds from one facility to another, often from one region of the state to another. Continue reading

New Virginia Nursing Home Law Appears to Violate Federal Statute

by James C. Sherlock

In addition to the General Assembly embarrassing themselves in the way they passed a law on nursing homes in this year’s session, they did it in an unseemly rush.

There was no pre-filing, a near-immediate and disgraceful floor “debate” led by the nursing industry’s lobbyist, and a rushed vote in the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee.  

A committee member in the House hearing asked for time to consider the bill. Her request was denied by the Chairman, who was the House patron of the bill. That was followed by a cursory review in the Senate Education and Health Committee before near-unanimous passage by both bodies.

Now it appears that the new state law they passed may violate the governing federal statute. Which, of course, state laws are not permitted to do under the supremacy clause. Continue reading

The Ongoing Tragedy of Virginia’s Nursing Homes

by James C. Sherlock

Virginia’s Health Commissioners have a job that is broad and deep in its responsibilities and authorities.By statute, appointees must be physicians.

Each is the chief executive of the Virginia Department of Health (VDH): a central office in Richmond and 35 local health districts.

By Virginia statutes and regulations, they are also the final decision authorities on such issues as the licensing of hospitals and nursing homes and all Certificate of Public Need decisions.

Nursing homes. To the point of this particular discussion, Health Commissioners have since at least 1989 possessed statutory (Code of Virginia § 32.1-135) and regulatory 12VAC5-371-90. Administrative sanctions authority to sanction Virginia nursing homes.

B. The commissioner may impose such administrative sanctions or take such actions as are appropriate for violation of any of the standards or statutes or for abuse or neglect of persons in care. Such sanctions include:

  1. Restricting or prohibiting new admissions to any nursing facility;
  2. Petitioning the court to impose a civil penalty or to appoint a receiver, or both; or
  3. Revoking or suspending the license of a nursing facility.

The results of a FOIA request inform me that not one of them has ever used that authority.

Not once in 34 years. Continue reading

The Virginia Board of Health and Nursing Homes – A Strange Appointment

by James C. Sherlock

I am starting to lose my sense of humor about the whole Virginia nursing home thing.

The Virginia Board of Health (VBOH) writes state regulations for every health facility and health services provider in Virginia, including nursing homes.

There is a statutory seat on the VBOH for a nursing home representative. (Of course there is.)

The incumbent, appointed by Governor Northam, is Melissa Green, RN. I am sure she is a good nurse and a good person.

But Ms. Green is also one of the three founders and the Chief Clinical Officer (CCO) of Trio Healthcare.

Trio is rated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as one of the worst nursing home chains in the entire country and the worst in Virginia.

The senses of humor of all of us are once again threatened by The Virginia Way. Continue reading