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VaNews
May 20, 2022
Top of the News

Report knocks Va. student achievement

By HANNAH NATANSON AND LAURA VOZZELLA, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

The Virginia Department of Education painted a grim picture of student achievement in the state in a report released Thursday, asserting that children are performing poorly on national assessments in reading and math and falling behind peers in other states. The 34-page report on students’ academic performance, requested as part of Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s first executive order, says these trends are especially pronounced among Black, Hispanic and low-income students. The report further critiques what it calls school districts’ lack of transparency regarding declining student performance — and it laments parents’ “eroding” confidence in the state’s public schools.


Virginia delegate, congressional candidate try to restrict minors' access to two books after judge’s obscenity finding

By GRAHAM MOOMAW, Virginia Mercury

A Republican lawyer who serves in the Virginia House of Delegates is pursing restraining orders that would make two books unavailable to minors after a retired judge acting on behalf of the Virginia Beach Circuit Court found the books could be considered obscene due to explicit sexual content. In an interview Thursday, Del. Tim Anderson, R-Virginia Beach, said he and his client in the case, Republican congressional candidate Tommy Altman, are now seeking temporary restraining orders that would prevent distribution of the books to minors by libraries and bookstores.


Va. Attorney General Jason Miyares wants access to sealed records of former Parole Board chair

By PATRICK WILSON, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Attorney General Jason Miyares wants the Supreme Court of Virginia to grant him access to sealed records of a former chair of the Virginia Parole Board, which he’s now investigating. Miyares filed the motion Wednesday asking the court to grant him access to the sealed records, which relate to a prior investigation of Judge Adrianne Bennett, a former parole board chair, by the state’s Judicial Inquiry and Review Commission (JIRC).


State employee concerns mount over Youngkin telework policy

By MICHAEL MARTZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

State employees face a tight deadline on Friday for getting permission to work from their homes under a new telework policy that Gov. Glenn Youngkin has imposed, but some say their supervisors have shown little flexibility in carrying it out. Two employees in separate divisions of the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services say their supervisors have certified that they can perform their jobs remotely, but higher-level managers informed them that the agency will not approve more than one day of telework a week without "a business reason to do so" or accommodation for a disability under federal law.


Chesapeake Bay blue crabs hit population low

By JEREMY COX, Bay Journal

The blue crab, the Chesapeake Bay’s most valuable catch and a closely watched proxy for the health of its underwater ecosystem, is less abundant now than at any time since scientists began regularly tracking the species in 1990. The new winter dredge survey conducted by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Virginia Institute of Marine Science and released May 19 found an estimated 227 million crabs in the Bay. The previous low was 270 million crabs in 2004.


Rappahannock Supervisors agree their salaries — deliberately lowest in Virginia — should remain unchanged

By BEN PETERS, Rappahannock News (Metered Paywall)

Members of the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors earn just $2,400 annually, making them tied with Craig County as the lowest paid elected officials in the role statewide, according to data from the Virginia Association of Counties. While it appears intuitive that a small rural area like Rappahannock lacks the budget to more equitably compensate its officials, the Supervisors’ pay also reflects a deliberate effort on behalf of past and present members of the body to ensure it remains the lowest in Virginia.


Friday Read Your Dog Is Not Ready for You to Return to the Office

By JOHN LELAND, New York Times (Metered Paywall - 1 to 2 articles a month)

Look at that face, those pleading eyes, that nose that kept you company all through the pandemic. Now explain to Cooper why it is so, so important that you return to the office — leaving her alone all day, after two years of 24/7 togetherness. Because … what? Company d’esprit? . . . More than 23 million American households added a cat or dog during the pandemic, according to the A.S.P.C.A., and many of those animals have never known what it is like to be left alone all day.

The Full Report
31 articles, 20 publications

FROM VPAP

From VPAP Independent Expenditures Hit $2 Million

The Virginia Public Access Project

U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-7th), who two years ago blasted progressives in her party who advocated "defunding the police," has been backed by more than $1.3 million from two super PACs that advance law enforcement issues in Congress. VPAP's analysis shows that so far, Spanberger has received the most support from independent expenditures among mid-term candidates running in Virginia.


From VPAP Maps, Timeline of COVID-19 in Virginia

The Virginia Public Access Project

Our COVID-19 dashboard makes it easy to track Virginia Department of Health data across the state -- or within your community. There are charts showing trends for vaccinations, infections, hospitalizations and deaths. You'll also find a map showing the two-week infection trend in each health district. Updated each morning around 10:30 a.m.

EXECUTIVE BRANCH

Youngkin administration report finds 'alarming' trends in Virginia's K-12 performance

By JESSICA NOCERA AND ANDREW CAIN, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Virginia's K-12 school performance is backsliding due to reduced expectations for students and schools and a lack of transparency, resulting in widening achievement gaps, according to a critical new assessment from Virginia's superintendent of public instruction. The report finds that Virginia's public school closures during COVID-19 exacerbated existing declines in student achievement, with the most "devastating" learning loss affecting Black and Hispanic students and students living in poverty.


VDOE calls out 'troubling trends' in new report

By KATHERINE KNOTT, Daily Progress (Metered Paywall - 25 articles a month)

Virginia students and their schools are being held to low expectations and have fallen behind nationally, state officials said Thursday. In a new report that criticizes past decisions, state Superintendent Jillian Balow details a series of what she calls “troubling trends” in student performance in reading and math that began before the pandemic and were exacerbated by it. The report, which was required by the governor’s executive order, will serve as a framework for conversations about Virginia schools during Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration.


Youngkin says report on ‘honesty gap’ points to decline in Virginia schools

By GRAHAM MOOMAW, Virginia Mercury

Pandemic learning loss and subpar standards have led to a significant decline in outcomes for Virginia’s K-12 students, Gov. Glenn Youngkin and his education appointees argued Thursday as they presented a new data analysis of school performance. Pointing to what the 34-page Virginia Department of Education report described as an “honesty gap” between what state learning assessments show and how Virginia students fare on a national assessment, Youngkin suggested decisions of prior administrations created an inaccurately rosy picture of the state of K-12 education.


Report finds falling student achievement in K-12 schools

By SARAH RANKIN, Associated Press

Virginia’s public schools, which have long enjoyed a reputation for academic excellence, have experienced a yearslong trend of declining student performance exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a critical state report released Thursday. A review of recent testing and other K-12 data presents a sobering picture, suggesting “overall high-average performance” has masked achievement gaps and poor reading proficiency and college-readiness measures, GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin and administration officials said.

FEDERAL ELECTIONS

Battle over books in Virginia Beach now targets Barnes & Noble, Amazon

By KELSEY KENDALL, Virginian-Pilot (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

At the request of a congressional candidate, a Virginia Beach Circuit Court judge has found probable cause that two books that can be found in school libraries in the city are obscene. Now the candidate is asking the court to restrict access to the books in privately owned bookstores. One is “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe, which the Virginia Beach Public School Board recently directed schools to remove from library shelves because of a similar determination. The other title is “A Court of Mist and Fury,” by Sarah J. Maas.


Rep. Bob Good says he will continue to defend conservative values in Congress

By CHARLOTTE RENE WOODS, Charlottesville Tomorrow

Bob Good, a former Campbell County supervisor and Liberty University athletics associate, is seeking a second term in Congress. Despite multiple attempts made over the past month, Good could not be reached for an interview. He previously spoke to Charlottesville Tomorrow during his first Congressional campaign in 2020. “I am a strong, bright-red conservative,” Good said at the time. “I would say a biblical conservative and constitutional conservative.”


Republican Congressional candidate Dan Moy doesn’t want you to ‘settle for Good’

By CHARLOTTE RENE WOODS, Charlottesville Tomorrow

“Don’t settle for good, it’s time for the best,” reads Dan Moy’s website. He is challenging incumbent Representative Bob Good to represent Virginia’s 5th Congressional District. More than a riff on his opponent’s name, Moy presents himself as an alternative candidate more in line with Glenn Youngkin, Virginia’s governor — calling Youngkin a “blueprint” for Republican success. “This wasn’t by stoking fear and it wasn’t about blaming everyone else for our problems,” his website reads. “It’s about Republicans showing how we are going to make Virginia a better place to live, work and raise a family.”


Democrats nominate DeVaughan to challenge Griffith in 9th

By STAFF REPORT, Cardinal News

Democrats have nominated Wise County community activist Taysha DeVaughan as their congressional candidate in the 9th district. She will face Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem, in the November general election. The Democrats’ 9th Congressional District Committee made the nomination after no candidate qualified for the primary ballot.


School choice, election ‘integrity’ at issue in 10th District GOP candidate forum

By ANYA SCZERZENIE, Prince William Times

With only five days to go until the Republicans’ 10th District “firehouse primary,” the 11 candidates held a final public forum Tuesday night during which they discussed inflation and supply shortages, Critical Race Theory, school choice and "election integrity." Members of the audience submitted anonymous questions, which were written on slips of paper and passed to the front of the Unity Braxton Middle School auditorium before the forum began.

STATE GOVERNMENT

At Dominion wind hearings, continued disputes over ratepayer protections

By SARAH VOGELSONG, Virginia Mercury

After two and a half days of testimony in Richmond, consumer protection advocates continue to disagree with Dominion Energy over whether regulators should require further safeguards for ratepayers as the utility seeks approval for its plans to build a massive wind farm off the coast of Virginia Beach. “There is no blank check for this project,” said Joseph Reid, an attorney from McGuireWoods who represented Dominion in the case before the State Corporation Commission, on Tuesday. But Senior Assistant Attorney General Meade Browder told the SCC that the office’s Division of Consumer Counsel remains concerned that customers face significant risks from the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project.


Another former VITA executive lands job in private IT industry

By MICHAEL MARTZ, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

Another former executive at the Virginia Information Technologies Agency has landed a leadership position in the private IT industry. Demetrias Rodgers, who had been serving as acting chief information officer at VITA, will become chief technology officer at Planet Technologies for its business with state and local governments, educational institutions and commercial operations. Rodgers resigned this month as deputy chief operating officer, his job before assuming interim COO duties after Jon Ozovek left the state IT agency in mid-February.

CONGRESS

Luria bill to help veterans who survived sexual assault unanimously passes House

By DAVE RESS, Daily Press (Metered Paywall - 1 article a month)

A bill to help veterans who survived sexual assault and harassment while in the military has sailed through the House of Representatives. The bill, which passed 417-0 on Wednesday, aims to streamline the flow of basic information from the Veterans Benefits Administrations and the Veterans Health Administration, said its sponsor, Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Virginia Beach. It also requires the Department of Veterans Affairs provide information about counseling and care on the Veterans Crisis Line as well as additional resources for survivors.

TRANSPORTATION

Metro requests reinstatement of some suspended rail cars after seven-month train shortage

By JUSTIN GEORGE, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

A seven-month train shortage that has brought lengthy waits for commuters is closer to ending after Metro asked its oversight agency Thursday to reinstate some of the rail cars that were pulled from service in October because of a safety defect. Transit officials submitted a plan to the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission on restoring a limited number of 7000-series cars, inspecting them daily before they began carrying passengers.


National Airport Getting New Terminal and Gate Numbering

By ADAM TUSS, WRC-TV

Reagan National Airport is about to go through a massive rebranding. Because of recent expansions, the airport will be split into Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. Terminal 1 will be the original airport building housing the A gates. Terminal 2 will house the newly named B, C, D and E gates. More than 1,000 signs in and around the airport will be changed starting June 4.

VIRGINIA OTHER

Eight Virginia groups join request for Federal Trade Commission to investigate electric utility industry

By SARAH VOGELSONG, Virginia Mercury

Eight Virginia organizations have joined more than 230 consumer, environmental and public interest groups in asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate electric industry practices that they say “impede renewable energy competition and harm consumer protection.” . . . Virginia organizations joining as signatories include Clean Virginia, Climate Action Alliance of the Valley, Environment Virginia, Environment Virginia Research and Policy Center, Sierra Club Falls of the James, Solar United Neighbors Virginia, Sustainable Roanoke and the Virginia Youth Climate Cooperative.


Advocacy groups ask Garland to revisit police slaying of Bijan Ghaisar

By TOM JACKMAN, Washington Post (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Dozens of advocacy and watchdog groups, including Amnesty International, the Fairfax County NAACP and the Project on Government Oversight, wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday asking him to reconsider the Justice Department’s decision to close the federal civil rights investigation into the 2017 slaying of unarmed motorist Bijan Ghaisar by two U.S. Park Police officers. The letter, signed by 45 organizations, follows a similar missive to Garland earlier this month by seven members of Congress, including both senators from Virginia and the chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources.


Confederate monument matter now in hands of state appeals court

By MICKEY POWELL, Winchester Star (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

The Virginia Court of Appeals ultimately will decide, either directly or indirectly, who takes ownership of the Confederate monument outside the Clarke County Courthouse. In court on Wednesday morning, Clarke County Circuit Court Judge Alexander Iden determined the case has gone beyond the scope of the court’s authority. His decision comes following an appeal of a jury’s verdict on April 8 to give the county ownership of the monument and the tiny plot on which it stands amid the courthouse grounds on North Church Street in downtown Berryville.


Resource Center For Afghan Refugees Opening In Alexandria

By HÉCTOR ALEJANDRO ARZATE, DCist

On Thursday, a new community center catering specifically to the needs of Afghan refugees will open in Alexandria, VA. The Virginia Community Center (VACC) is the second in the country to be established by the advocacy organization Women for Afghan Women (WAW), and will provide Afghan refugees new to the region with services like mental health counseling, legal support, and educational programming.

LOCAL

Loudoun Supervisors Mark Gun Violence Awareness Day in Another Split Vote

By RENSS GREENE, Loudoun Now

Supervisors on Tuesday passed a resolution marking National Gun Violence Awareness Day on June 3, following what has become an annual debate on the county dais. County Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) first brought a resolution marking the day, which was first recognized in 2015, the previous board in 2016. After backlash from Republicans, she attempted to avoid a political battle removing reference to The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Loudoun County Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, but the Republican majority on the board at the time stopped it nonetheless...


Richmond panel advances coliseum demolition plan

By C. SUAREZ ROJAS, Richmond Times-Dispatch (Metered Paywall - 7 articles a month)

The Richmond Economic Development Authority could soon have a 12-month deadline to demolish the Richmond Coliseum as part of the city’s plans to sell and redevelop the shuttered downtown property. Following the recent introduction of legislation to convey the 7-acre property under a cooperative agreement with the EDA, the City Council Finance and Economic Development Standing Committee on Thursday voted 2-1 to endorse the bill ahead of a final council vote slated for Monday.


Caroline supervisors find reasons to approach solar projects with caution

By TAFT COGHILL JR., Free Lance-Star (Metered Paywall - 10 articles a month)

The Caroline County Board of Supervisors recently voted to defer voting on four solar facility projects until next month. Supervisors expressed concerns about the effects of solar projects in other, similar localities before voting unanimously to take up the CC Solar farm project that covers 1,600 acres in Woodford at the June 14 meeting. The Racehorse Solar and Whalebone Solar projects in Woodford were also deferred until June 14.


Lea, White-Boyd question fellow council member's words, spending

By JEFF STURGEON, Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

After Roanoke Councilwoman Stephanie Moon Reynolds objected to Mayor Sherman Lea’s receiving $2,500 a year as a personal vehicle-use stipend, Lea and Vice Mayor Trish White-Boyd have criticized Moon Reynolds for her spending on business meals, travel and training and development. Moon spent more public funds on official duties in key discretionary categories this fiscal year than other council members and the mayor combined — $5,747.48 — a figure Lea called “concerning” in light of her publicly challenging him over a money request earlier this month.


‘Packing heat' at podium: Speaker suggests Nottoway official has carried gun on school property

Courier Record

They were once Republican allies, but an apparent fallout between Chris Page and School Board member Bill Outlaw reached a new level at Thursday night’s School Board meeting. Outlaw, who served in combat in Vietnam and the Middle East, wasn’t present to defend himself from Page’s allegations that Outlaw may have carried a handgun on school property — and perhaps on more than one occasion. . . . Page was nominated by Outlaw last year to serve on the Nottoway Electoral Board and appointed by the Judge. Page took office in July, but the relationship soured in September when Page was part of a 3-0 vote to remove longtime Registrar Angela Stewart and another 3-0 vote to remove Officer of Election Sharon Caldwell. Outlaw didn’t renominate Page, and Page’s term expired in September.


Scearce appointed to Pittsylvania DSS Board after testy exchange

By DIANA MCFARLAND, Chatham Star Tribune

The appointment of Jim Scearce to the Pittsylvania County Department of Social Services Board was approved 4-3 after a testy exchange between Board of Supervisors member Ron Scearce and Chairman Vic Ingram. . . . Jim Scearce is Ron Scearce’s brother. Ingram took an immediate stand against Jim Scearce’s appointment. Ingram said Jim Scearce has come to board for the past several months, attacking the Board and him personally. Ingram said Jim Scearce has made outbursts on two occasions and once had to be removed.


Bristol hires a consultant to deal with benzene issues at landfill

By DAVID MCGEE, Bristol Herald Courier (Metered Paywall - 15 articles a month)

A city consultant has notified BVU it is working to develop strategies to mitigate benzene emissions from the city landfill. SCS Engineers said, as of April 18, the firm had a contract with the city to provide professional services related to the city landfill, in a May 18 letter to BVU water and wastewater Manager Phillip King. It further acknowledged the report by the expert panel convened by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and its role in developing strategies going forward.

 

EDITORIALS

Another identity crisis for the Region That Has No Name

Virginian-Pilot Editorial (Metered Paywall - 2 articles a month)

Far be it from us to suggest that there might be something to numerology, the pseudoscience that contends numbers have some divine or mystic influence and power. After all, it’s people that give numbers meaning, gravity and consequence, not the numbers themselves. And yet, when it came to pass this month that Hampton Roads residents would add a second area code — 948 — it prompted a moment of introspection for the region. Maybe even a bit of an identity crisis.


Metro is running on fumes

Washington Post Editorial (Metered Paywall - 3 articles a month)

Washington, D.C.’s transit system published a performance report last week covering the first three quarters of its current fiscal year. The report features a tsunami of metrics, data and factoids, but here’s the bottom line: Bus and rail customers are unhappy, and they have every right to be. The time passengers in this region spend waiting for transit rather than riding on it, which was already worse than in most other major U.S. and Western cities, spiked last year.

COLUMNISTS

Yancey: Why the worker shortage is here to stay

By DWAYNE YANCEY, Cardinal News

Businesses that once were open late now close early because they can’t find enough workers. At other places, we have to wait in line longer to get checked out because there aren’t enough workers to serve customers. At still others, we see businesses that once never had to advertise for help now posting their hourly wages on their signs – and those wages are higher than they once were.

OP-ED

Anderson: Virginia Republicans support our law enforcement officers with increased funding, not just lip service

By RICHARD L. ANDERSON, published in Roanoke Times (Metered Paywall - 5 articles a month)

There are more than 800,000 law enforcement officers in the United States. As we celebrate National Police Week this week, we seek to honor those who put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe. During the months of April, May and June 2020, the number of law enforcement officers who quit their jobs increased by 24% across the nation, even as urban areas across the country were burned by violent protesters.

Anderson, chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, is a retired 30-year Air Force colonel.