Tag Archives: James Sherlock

SCHEV on the Community College Guaranteed Admission and Credits Programs

by James C. Sherlock

Image credit: Lumenlearning

I received a note from Peter Blake, director of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), in reference to my column on that program in early July.

He thanked, as do I, readers for their interest and supportive comments.

We agree with you that (Community College Guaranteed Admissions and Credits) are one of the most effective ways to expand access, improve retention and completion, and make college more affordable.

We (SCHEV) talk about it regularly in our various reports and recommendations.

We have a standing item in our annual tuition and fees report that calculates how much a student can save by following a pathway that goes through a community college.

For years, we have worked on improving systems that guarantee not only admission but also acceptance of community college credits toward a bachelor’s degree.

We could always do more outreach, so we appreciate your interest in the subject and the positive response you received from your readers.

It is important that the state offers a way to mitigate substandard K-12 educations. Virginia does that very well as far as I can tell.

It is important to spread the word.

But the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) cannot replace fully the lack of a solid grounding in life and academics in K-12. Continue reading

Richmond’s 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Needs Better Judgment

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. Acroterion/Wikipedia

by James C. Sherlock

Federal judges are supposed to call balls and strikes in relation to the Constitution and the law.

President Biden signed the Fiscal Responsibility Act into law on June 3.  Sec 324 of that law, Expediting Completion Of The Mountain Valley Pipeline,

  1. blocked any court from hearing cases about permits for the pipeline; and
  2. gave to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals jurisdiction over any other cases about that pipeline or about the law itself.

Judging federal agency decision cases is a traditional role for the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The 4th U.S. Circuit in Richmond, soon after the law was signed in Mountain Valley Pipeline, Llc V. Wilderness Society, Et Al. violated both key Sec. 324 provisions.

The Fourth Circuit had for years assumed for itself the role of federal and state regulator for pipelines in Virginia and wasn’t going to surrender that authority.

Having already multiple times rejected permits granted to the Mountain Valley and Atlantic Coast pipelines by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Corps of Engineers, among other federal and state agencies, it decided on July 10th and 11th to block construction once again while it reviewed challenges to yet more permits.

The Supreme Court overturned the decision very quickly and unanimously.

That was not an anomaly. The Conservative-Liberal split on the Supreme Court is 6-3.  Supreme Court rejections of 4th Circuit actions unanimously, 8-1 or 7-2, are becoming all too common. Continue reading

Youngkin Bans State Endorsements of Websites Targeted at Kids’ Sexuality That Do Not Require Parental Consent — WAPO Oobjects

by James C. Sherlock

The Washington Post editorial board, like its news pages, has stubbornly and selectively ignored a lot of big news:

  • the ongoing emergence of testimony under oath of whistleblowers recounting the IRS and Justice Department’s handling of all things Biden;
  • evidence like strings of single-purpose bank accounts used by and for current residents of the White House to launder and distribute to the family a great deal of foreign money; and
  • the collapse of Hunter Biden’s plea deal.

Such things do not rise to be the subjects of editorials. Except one on June 20 that was not a proud moment. The title:

Why Hunter Biden’s plea deal is justified

A quote from that editorial:

The outcome appears similar to what other defendants might have gotten for similar violations of the law.

Another editorial praised the Justice Department as “steeped in a tradition of political noninterference.” Seriously. They wrote that.

But the same board is in full dudgeon today about Glenn Youngkin taking “vital resources away from LGBTQ+ youth.” So, did he cut funding to some important program? Did he ban something?

No, he:

quietly authorized the removal of a resource page for LGBTQ+ youths on the Virginia Department of Health website.

“Quietly”? Clearly not.

But for very good reasons. Continue reading

Nursing Homes – What Could Go Wrong?

Mt. Vernon Healthcare Center Alexandria

by James C. Sherlock

I have written a lot recently about staffing shortages in Virginia nursing homes and the Commonwealth’s national ranking near the bottom of the states for staffing measures.

It is appropriate to ask why that matters.

Federal analyses of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) data offer the answer.

In proposing to adopt the Total Nursing Hours per Resident Day Staffing (Total Nurse Staffing) measure for the FY 2026 program year and subsequent years, the rule-makers offered this:

Staffing is a crucial component of quality care for nursing home residents. Numerous studies have explored the relationship between nursing home staffing levels and quality of care. The findings and methods of these studies have varied, but most have found a strong, positive relationship between staffing and quality outcomes.

Specifically, studies have shown an association between nurse staffing levels and hospitalizations, pressure ulcers, weight loss, functional status, and survey deficiencies, among other quality and clinical outcomes.

The strongest relationships have been identified for registered nurse (RN) staffing; several studies have found that higher RN staffing is associated with better care quality. We recognize that the relationship between nurse staffing and quality of care is multi-faceted, with elements such as staff turnover playing a critical role.

Remember, the surveys are conducted both for CMS certification and Virginia licensing by the Office of Licensure and Certification (OLC) of the Virginia Department of Health.

I have always found that office to be staffed by exemplary public servants, even while there have never been enough of them.

But we’ll get specific about Virginia nursing homes and survey deficiencies as the answer to the question:

“What could go wrong?”

Continue reading

Staffing Has Collapsed in Many Virginia Nursing Homes, Creating a Health Crisis for Our Most Vulnerable Citizens

by James C. Sherlock

I am seldom surprised by Virginia’s nursing home staffing problems, but new government data show no progress on staffing since October of last year.

Data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services show that the number of significantly understaffed facilities has not budged in seven months.

The numbers don’t lie.

And it undeniably represents a health crisis for our most vulnerable citizens.

The questions are: what are the facility operators and the Virginia Department of Health going to do about it? Continue reading

An Utter (and Videotaped) Disgrace of the Virginia General Assembly

by James C. Sherlock

Scott Johnson at the podium on Jan 17, 2023 testifying before the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions.

Whatever the Virginia Health Care Association (VHCA), the state’s nursing home lobbying organization, pays its General Counsel, Scott Johnson, it is not enough.

He has been representing them for 20 years, and he owns the General Assembly.

This is going to sound boring as I frame the background that is the subject of the hearing. But I feel I must try to explain the complexities to make what happened in the hearing understandable.

But I promise the hearing itself is not boring. There are heroes, heroines and villains.

That hearing was a thoroughgoing disgrace to the General Assembly of Virginia. Members are seen clearly to surrender their authority, their duties, and their personal dignity to an industry they are elected to oversee.

It was videotaped for posterity.

It represents the “Virginia Way.” a product of unlimited campaign donations. It is reprehensible.

The law passed through this process must be repealed in its entirety. Continue reading

Loudoun County Public Schools – Part 2 – Sterling

Park View High School – Courtesy Loudoun County Public Schools

by James C. Sherlock

We are told by the left that more money is the answer to better schools. That is what Virginia Democrats are running on as education policy.

I am comparing two high schools in America’s richest county, Loudoun, to control for per pupil expenditures.

In Part 1 we looked at Freedom High School in Chantilly. Breathtaking results.

Park View High School, like Freedom, is in Loudoun County. It’s in Sterling.

Park View has 1,400 students, Freedom 2,000. The demographics are different. The Park View student body is far more economically disadvantaged and heavily Hispanic.

Asian, White, Black and Hispanic kids from wealthy families at Freedom High all blew away the state assessments in 2021-22. The outcomes were far worse, even among Asian-American students, at Park View.

Those results can be explained by differences in the learning environments.

  • At Park View 33% of the students were chronically absent in 2021-22; at Freedom 11%.
  • Offenses, Referrals and Arrests and Suspensions reported to the government in 2017-18 (last year available) not only between the two high schools, but even more disturbingly at Sterling Middle, a feeder to Park View, were starkly different.

Loudoun County’s money has not provided a suitable learning environment at Park View or Sterling Middle.

Because of that failure, despite all of the spending, economically disadvantaged students in Loudoun test no better in math, reading and science than the state average for similarly disadvantaged students.

The lesson I take away from this is that schools can’t create learning environments and teach at schools like Park View and its feeders using the same methods they do with kids from wealthier families and expect good results.

A focus on race, ethnicity and money misses the point. The issues are discipline and self respect. Both can be taught. Continue reading

Where Do Dems Stand on Civil Immunity for Law Enforcement Officers?

by James C. Sherlock

Photo credit: Richmond Times-Dispatch

Being a law enforcement officer is tough under the best of circumstances.

Do you think that exposure to losing your house and car in a civil suit for something you did in a split second to protect the public and yourself and did not have reason to know was against the law would deter you from a job in law enforcement?

Truth is, it would deter all of us.

Virginia Democrats in 2021 introduced legislation to eliminate under Virginia law a peace officer’s ability to offer an immunity defense in state courts against civil lawsuits for actions that violate constitutional rights:

A. Any law-enforcement officer, as defined in § 9.1-101, who, under color of law, subjects or causes to be subjected, including failing to intervene, any other person to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities granted to such person under the constitutions and laws of the United States and the Commonwealth, shall be liable to the injured party for compensatory damages, punitive damages, and equitable relief….

B. Sovereign immunity and any limitations on liability or damages shall not apply to claims brought pursuant to this section. Qualified immunity is not a defense to liability imposed by this section.

A 2017 per curiam (unanimous) opinion by the Supreme Court reiterated a long-existing legal standard that qualified immunity is an available defense for law enforcement officers unless there is “clearly established law giving each individual Officer fair notice that his particular conduct was unlawful.”

It is hard to imagine that the Supreme Court, unanimous there, would permit a state law that denied civil immunity without fair notice of the illegality of specific acts.

Regardless, under the 2021 Democratic bill in Virginia, officers were to be in jeopardy in civil suits whether or not they had fair notice that their actions, split-second or otherwise, were unlawful.  They were specifically to be required to judge the constitutionality of specific actions.

With a gun in their face.

It draws a very clear line for political debate. Continue reading

Equal Protection, Affirmative Action and Effecting Generational Change

by James C. Sherlock

America is the most successful nation in the history of the world because of the freedoms and rights guaranteed by our Constitution.

More than a hundred other nations have emulated the American Constitution.

Without constitutionally guaranteed freedoms and rights, we would be chained to the whims of the state. Most immediately to the whims of the executive branch. There would be precious little for the judicial branch to protect.

A recent Supreme Court decision found affirmative action in college admissions to be unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment, Section 1:

No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Justice Roberts for the majority ruling that the Harvard and UNC admissions programs cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause:

Both programs lack sufficiently focused and measurable objectives warranting the use of race, unavoidably employ race in a negative manner, involve racial stereotyping, and lack meaningful end points. We have never permitted admissions programs to work in that way, and we will not do so today.

Three justices disagreed.

Justice Sotomayor read her opinion from the bench — a sign of strong disagreement. An excerpt:

Today, this Court stands in the way and rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress. It holds that race can no longer be used in a limited way in college admissions to achieve such critical benefits. In so holding, the Court cements a superficial rule of colorblindness as a constitutional principle in an endemically segregated society where race has always mattered and continues to matter.

Note that Justice Sotomayor, as always careful of the words in her opinions, chose “endemically” to modify “segregated.” Oxford dictionary: “regularly found and very common among a particular group or in a particular area.”

That is different than the word “systemically” — Oxford: “in a basic and important way that involves the whole of an organization or a country and not just particular parts of it.” Continue reading

Nursing Shortages Require Better Oversight of Virginia Nursing Homes – Part Two – State Action Required

by James C. Sherlock

Patterns of understaffing, medical harm and abuse in nursing homes are traceable:

  • in some cases to a business model of understaffing to increase profits. Federal fines are built into the business models of the bad actors. Some of the worst post double-digit annual operating margins;
  • in some to other systemic chain-wide issues, perhaps financial instability; and
  • in yet others to local management incompetence and other site-specific issues.

Regardless of the reason, Virginia regulators and law enforcement agencies must execute the roles they are legally charged to perform.

State sanctions must be levied.

  • The Health Commissioner can block the admission of new patients until staff levels support them or shut down those facilities that do not meet standards over a long period of time;
  • The Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) can suspend or halt Medicaid payments;
  • The Attorney General can prosecute for civil or criminal violations.

Enforcement will result in fewer, but better and safer options. Continue reading

Supreme Court Decision on Racial Preferences in College Recruiting Should Doom Much of DEI in State Institutions of Higher Learning

by James C. Sherlock

It is the day to celebrate America’s freedoms.  It is also a good day to enforce them.

United States Constitution, Amendment XIV, Section 1.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.

No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Supreme Court decisions in the Harvard and UNC cases make unambiguously unconstitutional many elements of the way Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is currently implemented in colleges and universities.

For example, clearly there is no legal space between unconstitutional processes in the recruiting of students and the same processes in the recruiting and promotion of faculty.

None. Continue reading

Culture Wars about College Admissions Tend to Ignore Guaranteed Entry from Virginia Community Colleges

by James C. Sherlock

Much angst has accompanied the Supreme Court’s decision banning overt racial preferences in admissions to colleges as violations of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

The conversations in the comments to Jim Bacon’s article on admissions were as split philosophically/politically as is anything else these days.

I will not rehash them.

But many of the comments seemed based on an unwritten assumption that a kid is blocked from higher education if not admitted into a four-year college out of high school.

That, if true, would indeed be a cruel fate. And headline-seeking race hustlers who tell such kids they have been permanently disadvantaged would have a point.

But such a tale is objectively and observably not true. Anyone who tells a kid that is lying, and lying unforgivably.

There are 250,000 Virginia students who prove the story false. Continue reading

A Simple Statement of Fact about the Public Schools

by James C. Sherlock

I know. Schools. Again.

But Virginia’s schools have been shown to be getting worse faster than those of other states.

Perhaps we should do something.

Read the National Assessment Board’s press release from June 21st. One paragraph drew my attention:

The LTT assessments in reading and math measure fundamental skills among nationally representative, age-based cohorts and have been administered since 1971 and 1973, respectively.

Students were generally making progress until 2012, when scores started declining.

Scores took a sharp downturn during the pandemic. Today, the average score for 13-year-olds on the LTT reading assessment is about where it was in 1971.

Despite the large decline in math, the average score in 2023 remains higher than in 1973.

Declining since 2012 nationwide.

Virginia’s have been declining since 2017. In a hurry.

Continue reading

Predatory Virginia Nursing Home Owners

by James C. Sherlock

Merriam Webster:

Pred*a*tor: (noun) one who injures or exploits others for personal gain or profit.

The most medically vulnerable of us reside in skilled nursing facilities (SNF).

Nobody plans to be there, but that is where about thirty thousand Virginians find themselves at any one time. People who are moved from hospitals to save money for the insurers but are too sick or injured to go home yet.  

They are supposed to get the skilled nursing the name suggests. Many don’t.

Most are covered by Medicare. The rest by Medicaid or private insurance. It could be any one of us tomorrow.

These patients are at risk by design in some of these SNF’s. Put in danger by a perverted business model, a model that shows that returns can be juiced into double digits by stripping staff. The facilities can then be flipped in a couple of years at a profit based upon increased cash flows.

We will track their investments using government data. We will see a ritual, system-wide understaffing.  We will also see that the government accumulated and publishes staffing data but there is no evidence they use it for anything.

There are nursing homes in Virginia, for example, that provide less than 30% of the registered nurse hours per patient per day that CMS assesses they require.  Weekend statistics are worse. Nothing happens.

Today there are large systems not one of which is staffed to CMS norms.

There are real people who are harmed by those calculated violations.  Exceptionally vulnerable people are regularly denied at least their dignity, often their health and sometimes their lives.

The owners injure and exploit patients for personal gain or profit.

They are predators. Continue reading

Past Time for Serious Sanctions for the Commonwealth’s Worst Nursing Homes

by James C. Sherlock

Effective May 1 of this year, Karen Shelton M.D. became Virginia’s Health Commissioner. Dr. Shelton is now the licensor and regulator of Virginia’s nursing homes.

By law, state-licensed nursing homes must comply with federal and state laws and standards. By regulation, the Health 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.”

It is time.

I hope that she will pose a challenge to her Office of Licensure and Certification (OLC), of which I am a public admirer, that goes something like this.

Too many Virginia nursing homes are measured objectively by CMS (the Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services) to be dangerous to the health and welfare of their patients through a combination of:

  • inspections that we ourselves conduct;
  • staffing measures linked to payroll data; and
  • medical quality measures from federal records.

Many have been that way for a very long time.

Current staffing far below CMS requirements seems to indicate that too many have no apparent path to improvement.

Come and see me in a couple of weeks with a list of the absolute worst of them.

And tell me why I should not shut them down to let the rest know that there are minimum standards beneath which they will not be permitted to operate in Virginia.

And one more thing.

Please let me know if there are organizations or individuals, current or recent, whose facilities have appeared regularly enough with the lowest staffing rating to indicate that understaffing may constitute a business model rather than a local exigency.

That too will not be tolerated.

We will take on those challenges here as if they are our own.

This article will identify the absolute worst of the facilities, using government records. The next will look at understaffing trends among owners. Continue reading