Archives for category: Virginia

The University of Virginia adopted a vaccination mandate. Of its 27,000 students, 238 students were “disenrolled” because they didn’t get vaccinated. About 96.6% are vaccinated. A small number of students (1.3%) received medical or religious exemptions and are required to wear a mask and get tested regularly.

A university spokesman said:

“If you’re unvaccinated, we ask that you wear a mask at all times — indoors or outdoors — whenever you’re around people,” said Coy. “Anyone unvaccinated and has an exemption will have to test once a week, we’re starting once a week: That might go up.”

Trump took to Twitter to encourage protestors in three states with Democratic governors, urging them to defy authority. Is he violating his oath of office?

Trump tweets call to “LIBERATE” states where people are protesting virus restrictions.

President Trump on Friday began openly fomenting right-wing protests of social distancing restrictions in states where groups of his conservative supporters have been violating stay-at-home orders, less than a day after announcing guidelines for how governors could decide on an orderly reopening of their communities.

In a series of all-caps tweets, Mr. Trump declared “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” and “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” — two states whose Democratic governors have imposed social distancing restrictions that have shut down businesses and schools and forced people to remain at home. He also tweeted “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”

Mr. Trump’s tweets were a remarkable example of a president egging on demonstrators. Earlier this week, more than 1,000 protesters organized by conservative groups created a traffic jam on the streets around the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., to complain that the restrictions were bad for small businesses. Other protesters, not in vehicles, waved banners in support of Mr. Trump and protested Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has been a target of his ire, by chanting, “Lock her up.”

In St. Paul, Minn., a group calling itself “Liberate Minnesota” held a protest Friday in violation of stay-at-home orders in front of the home of Gov. Tim Walz. Hundreds showed up, according to news reports. The group’s Facebook page says that “now is the time to demand Governor Walz and our state legislators end this lock down!”

Mr. Walz was asked about the tweet at a news conference Friday. “I just don’t have time to figure out why something like that would happen,” he said, adding that he had tried calling both the president and the vice president and had yet to hear back.

”I just have to lead,” said Mr. Walz. “If they’re not going to do it, we’re going to do it, and I don’t mean that critically.”

As he spoke, protesters gathered outside his mansion.

Mr. Trump’s tweets began just moments after a Fox News report by Mike Tobin, a reporter for the network, about protests in Minnesota and elsewhere. The report featured a protester from Virginia saying “those of us who are healthy and want to get out of our house and do business, we need to get this going again. It’s time.”

Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State, where there was an early outbreak, said the president’s tweets could lead to violence and an increase in infections. “The president is fomenting domestic rebellion and spreading lies even while his own administration says the virus is real and is deadly, and that we have a long way to go before restrictions can be lifted,” Mr. Inslee, a Democrat, said in a statement.

At a news conference on Friday afternoon, Ms. Whitmer said she hoped the president’s comments would not incite more protests. “There is a lot of anxiety,” she said. “The most important thing that anyone with a platform can do is try to use that platform to tell people, ‘We are going to get through this.’”

“There is no one more eager to start re-engaging sectors of our economy than I am,” she added. “We are going to do this safely so we don’t have a second wave.”

And when Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia was asked about the president’s comment at a virus news briefing Friday, he said: “I do not have time to involve myself in Twitter wars.”

On a phone call between Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Democrats, Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia asked why Mr. Trump was trying incite division in the middle of pandemic, in reference to Mr. Trump’s “LIBERATE” tweets, according to a person familiar with the call. When Mr. Pence said that the administration was working respectfully with governors, Mr. Kaine noted that the tweets in question were not respectful.

So this is what America has come to.

The chairman of a local Republican party in Virginia threatened a Democratic legislator leading the campaign to restrict access to assault weapons. He threatened to kill him and marched outside his home with weapons.

A Democratic lawmaker who is leading an effort to ban assault weapons in Virginia has asked local prosecutors to consider pressing charges against a gun-toting Republican Party chair who protested outside his home on Saturday.

Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria) said Brandon Howard, chair of the Hopewell Republican Party and head of the gun group Right to Bear Arms Virginia, may have violated Virginia statutes related to intimidation and harassment.

Levine referred the case to Alexandria City Commonwealth Attorney Bryan Porter, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Howard posted Levine’s home address to a Facebook event prior to his protest, and read it again in a video he posted to the platform on Saturday.

“I hope you kissed your wife,” Howard said in the video. “I hope you kissed your husband. I hope you kiss your children goodbye before you come and take mine [firearm], because that’s the last time you’d have ever kissed them in your life.”

Levine, who got wind of the protest through the Facebook event, called the police. A third protestor decided to sit it out after seeing the police presence, according to Howard.

Levine told VPM News that he watched Howard patrol the perimeter of his home wielding a military-style semi-automatic shotgun and pistol.

“I just don’t think decisions in America should be made at the point of a gun,” Levine said. “I think that happens in Syria and Somalia and Russia, North Korea, but I think in our country, politicians shouldn’t make up their mind because they’re afraid of being shot.”

Levine’s proposed assault weapons ban cleared the House of Delegates last week; it would allow existing assault weapons owners to keep their guns.

Howard sparked controversy by leading a group carrying assault weapons through the Alexandria Farmers Market. He also launched a run for Hopewell City Council by saying he would give away firearms, according to NBC-12.

The bill to limit access to assault weapons, supported by Governor Ralph Northam, was defeated when four moderate Democrats joined with the Republicans to vote it down. 


Jeff Bryant has written a powerful story that reveals the growing dominance of corporations in schools.

In the expanding effort to privatize the nation’s public education system, an ominous, less-understood strain of the movement is the corporate influence in Career and Technical Education (CTE) that is shaping the K-12 curriculum in local communities.

An apt case study of the growing corporate influence behind CTE is in Virginia, where many parents, teachers and local officials are worried that major corporations including AmazonFord and Cisco—rather than educators and local, democratic governance—are deciding what students learn in local schools.

CTE is a rebranding of what has been traditionally called vocational education or voc-ed, the practice of teaching career and workplace skills in an academic setting. While years ago, that may have included courses in woodworking, auto mechanics, or cosmetology, the new, improved version of CTE has greatly expanded course offerings to many more “high-demand” careers, especially in fields that require knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

Education policy advocates across the political spectrum, from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to former First Lady Michelle Obama, have praised expansions of CTE programs in schools. Fast-tracking federal funds for CTE programs in schools has become the new bipartisan darling of education policy. CTE lobbyists and advocates have successfully pressed for expanded funding of their programs at federal and state levels. And a 2019 study by the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing advocacy group based in Washington, D.C., found that since 2004, mentions of CTE in U.S. media outlets “have grown over tenfold, and they have doubled since 2012.”

According to a September 2019 analysis from Brookings, “more than 7 million secondary school students and nearly 4 million postsecondary students were enrolled in CTE programming.” And a 2018 review of CTE programs by the federal government’s National Center for Education Statistics found 73 percent of school districts offered CTE courses that give students both high school and postsecondary credit, a potential benefit for students and parents who want to reduce the cost of college.

What has folks in Chesterfield County, Virginia, concerned is the particular brand of CTE that has come to their district. At a September 2019 community event, middle school teacher Emma Clark and others mentioned the district’s collaboration with Ford Next Generation Learning (NGL), an offshoot of the Ford Motor Company that claims, according to its website, that it “mobilizes educators, employers, and community leaders to create a new generation of young people who will graduate from high school both college- and career-ready.”

Chesterfield parents I spoke with also pointed to the district’s collaboration with the Cisco Networking Academy, an offshoot of the computer networking giant that has its own branded course offering in the Chesterfield CTE curriculum.

In a phone conversation, Clark described the district’s collaborations with these companies as “new layers” of school privatization. First, corporations like these can use the rush to CTE to flood schools with new course offerings that require technology the schools have to buy. And another layer is the CTE programs businesses help to create provide them with free job training.

The concern Chesterfield teachers and parents have about corporate influence in K-12 public school curricula is magnified enormously due to the entrance of Amazon into the equation.

The “centerpiece” of Virginia’s successful effort to lure Amazon to build a new headquarters in the state, according to state-based news outlets and state-issued reports, was a commitment to more than double Virginia’s tech-talent pipeline, beginning in K-12 schools.

“Virginia’s ultimate proposal was centered around an effort to provide Amazon—or any other tech firm that wanted to come—with all the educated workers it needed,” according to a report in the Washingtonian, and the state sealed the deal with a pledge “to plow $1.1 billion into tech schooling.” The state’s commitment to developing a tech-talent pipeline providing workers for Amazon and other companies was key to inking the deal, says an Amazon spokesperson in the Cincinnati Business Courier.

“We’re being hijacked in Virginia,” Kathryn Flinn explained to me. Flinn is a 20-year resident of Chesterfield and mother of two children, one a special-needs child, who both have attended Chesterfield County Public Schools.

Candidates for Public office endorsed by NPE Action won big. 

We didn’t give them money.

We gave them our valued Seal of Approval, demonstrating that they are the real deal, genuine supporters of public schools.

We also celebrate the apparent victory in Kentucky of Andy Bashear and the apparent defeat of Governor Matt Bevin, who mistreated teachers and sought Betsy DeVos’s approval. Kentucky has a charter law but no funding for charters.

And we congratulate the brave Democrats in Virginia, who won control of the legislature.

And salutations to the new school board members who won control of the Denver school board. Aloha   to Senator MIchael Bennett and other pseudo reformers.

November 5 was a great day for public schools and teachers!

In a major setback for Republicans in Virginia, Democrats swept control of both houses of the state legislature!

Trump has no shirttails.

This election and the election in Kentucky should send a message to the a Republican majority in the Senate. Will Democrats sweep both houses of Congress next year as Mitch McConnell and every other Republican Senator stick by Trump to the bitter end?



Cheryl Gibbs was not an activist. She just wanted to teach her children in a Virginia public school and ignore politics. But step by step, she realized that there was a coordinated attack on public schools. One thing led to another. She joined the union. She became a union rep. She became a BAT.

And when she retired, she became a full-fledged member of the Resistance. The Resistance fights privatization. It fights the replacement of experienced teachers by TFA and artificial intelligence. It fights for real education, real teachers, real public schools.

She begins:

When I began teaching twenty years ago, my activism was caring about children; loving them, helping them discover their most complete, healthy, and most fulfilled selves as they grew. I  read the mainstream news and voted. That was about the extent of it. 

I joined the union, like many teachers, to have the liability insurance that I knew a teacher might need when classes included at-risk and emotionally disordered students. When I was asked to be a union co-rep for my building, the promise was, “You only have to attend one meeting a month and fill-in when the “real rep” isn’t available.” I reluctantly agreed to serve.

Yet here I am. 

Voluntarily retired two years earlier than I planned; deeply embedded in BATs, participating in webinars with the Quality of Worklife Team; organizing marches and legislative actions, and planning workshops with the Virginia Educators United RedforEd Caucus; and campaigning for school board members and state legislators I think we can trust. 

Today, I am often asked by other union members and pro-school activists why more educators  don’t speak up, don’t act out, don’t defend themselves against the bullying and onslaught of attacks our profession has been under during the reform and privatization movement. 

The answers often seem obvious.

We don’t like confrontation:

It’s not our default. We prefer peace and collaboration. Our default is yes, not no. It takes a lot to push us to play offense.

We assume the best in others: 

It is impossible to believe someone could deliberately be attacking our work, our kids, our schools. We are well-intended. It’s hard to come to terms that others are not.

We are busy: 

Our jobs have been engineered to keep us so. Between 50 or more hours a

week as an educator, a second job for making ends meet, and family duties

when can we take additional actions? 

We are afraid: 

Afraid of losing our jobs, of losing our houses, of losing our kids’ health insurance, afraid of losing a career we trained long and hard for, afraid of losing our public dignity and credibility.

We don’t think we can win: 

The people who say we are at fault and our schools are failing (Yes, they are still saying that) are the intellectual elites, the thought leaders, the policymakers, the wealthy, our bosses. How can we ‘just teachers’ of kids stand up to their power, their influence, their affluence? 

So, often we find another way out. 

We just close our door and pretend there is no crisis.

We find a therapist or a friendly ear outside

We find a school with fewer high needs students

We look for a school with less toxic management

We move to coaching or counseling or administration

We leave education for another field

We  retire.

I thought all those things at various times across the last 20 years, particularly during the last 7 as my activism has escalated. I considered each of those paths and wound up retiring on my way to here. 

But none of those options really Solve the Problem, and the Problem is much bigger than just that my job is unpleasant or that my school is under funded and too often mismanaged.

The unfortunate truth is that I’m an activist today because step by step, watching my colleagues be targeted, watching schools be undermined and closed, watching systematic underfunding, and replacement of competent people with hobby teachers, watching the deliberate reduction of teachers of color in the system–  I came to realize, there is no other choice, and even worse there is nothing left to lose.

Our job protections have been dismantled. Most school employees can be fired at will with todays’ evaluation systems. Our salaries are below working class level. Our health plans and retirement plans are being gutted. Our credibility and respect in the community are already gone. And even sadder, our students are being stalked for death, stressed to the breaking point, and priced out of gaining access to professional success, and those of color are being moved systematically from school to jail. 

Individual personal solutions will not stop the destruction of our schools, or provide safety for us or our students. Pleasant and amenable collaboration will not satisfy the appetites of those who want to squeeze our schools for every penny and would distort healthy learning into a propagandized prison to get that last penny. 

Read it all.

She has joined the BATS and the Resistance, and she won’t give up.



While the state of Virginia is engulfed in a crisis of leadership, friends of public education are pushing to launch  a statewide protest on behalf of public education, reports Rachel Levy. 

After years of underfunding, grassroots activists have begun their campaign, hoping to ignite a movement that leads to equitable movement. The leadership crisis makes the battle for #Red4Ed even harder in what issuer to be an uphill battle.

Levy writes:

“The #Red4Ed movement has kicked off in Virginia: On January 28, as many as 5,000 public school teachers, educators, workers, parents, students, and other stakeholders marched on the Virginia state capitol in Richmond to demand fully funded public schools. The march and rally, organized by Virginia Educators United, a “grassroots campaign” of teachers, staff members, parents and community members, was one of the largest to descend on the state capitol in the last century.

“The well-organized event was supported by strategic use of social media and a user-friendly website. The group’s demands include restoring funding for education to pre-2008 recession levels, increasing teacher pay to national averages, paying education support professionals competitive wages, recruitment and retention of highly qualified teachers and more teachers of color, more funding for school infrastructure costs, and ensuring sufficient numbers of support staff like counselors and social workers….

“There is broad, bipartisan support for public education in Virginia, despite terrible funding. This support is not a sign that Virginia as a whole is getting “bluer.” In fact, support for school privatization is stronger in places like Richmond with more socially liberal but gentrifying, market-friendly forces. The problem is also that in more conservative, traditionally Republican-voting areas, while support for the institution of public education is strong, support for the policies that will make public schools more equitable, integrated, and better funded is not. And in more conservative areas, there is an inherent discomfort with advocacy and activism—I know from my own research that most people seem to understand advocacy to mean being supportive and uncritical of decision-makers.

“At the rally on January 28, David Jeck, superintendent of Fauquier County public schools, stated that, “the localities are not at fault here.” But such a statement lets wealthier communities off the hook. Local districts in Virginia have also made cuts to education, and did not restore pre-recession funding. And local districts in Virginia are hindered by restrictive proffer policies that make it difficult to collect revenues from developers or otherwise leverage sufficient taxes on businesses and non-personal property. Better-heeled parents support their local public schools not by advocating for more funding, but by funneling donations and in-kind donations directly to their school via parent groups and local businesses and foundations.

”At the state level, the structure of the General Assembly itself poses obstacles. Virginia has a part-time “citizen” legislature. And even though in 2017 a record number of women, people of color, and progressives were elected to the House of Delegates, the capacity of citizens, such as those connected with Virginia Educators United, to engage in advocacy is limited. Participants must be available at any time, including during weekends, holidays, early mornings, and late nights when the General Assembly is in session (for forty-five days and ninety days, alternatively). This means that most such advocacy efforts are left to professional lobbyists, organizations, and associations.”

It will take widespread support to get the attention of the legislature to the state’s crisis of funding.




I think Reverend William Barber is the most powerful voice for justice in the nation today. He wrote this article that was published in the Washington Post. That newspaper yesterday  called on Governor Ralph Northam to resign. 

Rev. Barber does not agree. He thinks that Gov. Northam can demonstrate repentance by whathe does today. And he calls out the hypocrisy of those who want Northam to resign yet continue to harm Black people by supporting voter suppression, ignoring poverty, and the denying their rights as citizens.

Since the Post is behind a paywall, here it is.


The Rev. William J. Barber II is president of Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

Following news that Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s social life in the mid-1980s included parties where white people dressed in blackface, a stream of offensive photos from fraternity parties in the late 1970s and early 19 80s has emerged, implicating not only a few bad apples but also white elites across social and ideological lines. To African Americans who have survived the status quo of American racism, this is hardly a surprise. But it does raise again in our common life the question of what it means to repent of America’s racist past and pursue a more perfect union.

Like for any African American, this is personal for me. When my father challenged Jim Crow’s inequality in Georgia in the 1950s, a white man put a gun in his mouth and told him what he planned to do to him if he didn’t stop talking. When I was a young man in the 1970s, the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross in my uncle’s yard because he had married a white woman. My uncle sent me to the back door with a shotgun and told me to shoot anything that moved. When you know in your body the violent backlash that is inevitable whenever white supremacy is challenged, you cannot take its cultural symbols lightly.

But as angry as I can become at those who mock black people and culture to justify their own sense of superiority, I also know that mockery, fear and hatred of black people are the result of a racial caste system, not its causes. White supremacy did not emerge in the United States because of some innate human understanding that black people are inferior to white people. It was an economic choice that Americans of European descent then created an ideology to explain. “I was taught the popular folktale of racism,” American University scholar Ibram Kendi writes, “that ignorant and hateful people had produced racist ideas, and that these racist people had instituted racist policies. But when I learned the motives behind the production of many of America’s most influentially racist ideas, it became obvious that this folk tale, though sensible, was not based on a firm footing in historical evidence….”

If Northam, or any politician who has worn blackface, used the n-word or voted for the agenda of white supremacy, wants to repent, the first question they must ask is “How are the people who have been harmed by my actions asking to change the policies and practices of our society?” In political life, this means committing to expand voting rights, stand with immigrant neighbors, and provide health care and living wages for all people. In Virginia, it means stopping the environmental racism of the pipeline and natural gas compressor station Dominion Energy intends to build in Union Hill, a neighborhood founded by emancipated slaves and other free African Americans.

Scapegoating politicians who are caught in the act of interpersonal racism will not address the fundamental issue of systemic racism. We have to talk about policy. But we also have to talk about trust and power. If white people in political leadership are truly repentant, they will listen to black and other marginalized people in our society. They will confess that they have sinned and demonstrate their willingness to listen and learn by following and supporting the leadership of others. To confess past mistakes while continuing to insist that you are still best suited to lead because of your experience is itself a subtle form of white supremacy.

At the same time, we cannot allow political enemies of Virginia’s governor to call for his resignation over a photo when they continue themselves to vote for the policies of white supremacy. If anyone wants to call for the governor’s resignation, they should also call for the resignation of anyone who has supported racist voter suppression or policies that have a disparate impact on communities of color.

While we must name and resist white supremacy, we can also recall that we are never alone in this work. During the 19th century, there were anti-racist abolitionists — black and white — who worked to subvert and transform a system that considered some people chattel. In the new dawn of Reconstruction, black and white men worked together in statehouses across the South to reimagine democracy. During the 20th century’s movements for labor unions, women’s suffrage, and civil, human and environmental rights, fusion coalitions of black, white, brown, Native and Asian worked together to pursue a more perfect union that both acknowledges our original sin and holds on to the hope that we might yet live up to the better angels of our nature. Whenever we ask what repentance means, we don’t have to start from scratch. We have a long tradition to draw on, full of examples of what true repentance must look like.

In his 20s and 30s, Democrat Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia was a recruiter for the Ku Klux Klan, serving as the exalted cyclops of his local chapter. He continued to support the Klan into the 1940s, but Byrd later said joining the Klan was his greatest mistake. He demonstrated what repentance can look like by working with colleagues in Congress to extend the Voting Rights Act in 2006 and backing Barack Obama as his party’s candidate for president in 2008. “Senator Byrd and I stood together on many issues,” wrote Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who nearly died fighting for voting rights in Selma, Ala. In our present moral crisis, we must remember that real repentance is possible — and it looks like working together to build the multiethnic democracy we’ve never yet been.












John Blake, a CNN writer, has a different take on the controversy surrounding Virginia Governor Ralph Northam and the recently discovered photographs from his medical school yearbook of one student in blackface, the other wearing a Klan outfit.

He writes:

What more do you need to know? The damage to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s credibility is so beyond repair that some critics say he has to go.
But here’s an uncomfortable truth that photo won’t reveal:
Some of the biggest champions for black people in America’s past have been white politicians who were racists.

Some of our best friends were racist

A pop history quiz:
Who was the white Southerner who used the N-word almost like a “connoisseur” and routinely called a landmark civil rights law “the n—– bill.”
That was President Lyndon Baines Johnson, the greatest civil rights champion of any modern-day president.
Who was the white judge who joined the KKK, marched in their parades and spokeat nearly 150 Klan meetings in his white-hooded uniform?
That was Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black, who incurred the wrath of his fellow Southerners when he voted to abolish Jim Crow segregation in the court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.
And who was the white politician who also used the N-word freely, told racist jokes and said African-Americans were biologically inferior to whites?
That’s Abraham Lincoln, the “Great Emancipator” and arguably the nation’s greatest president.
The point of these examples is not to offer a historical loophole for any leader caught being blatantly racist.
What happens to Northam is ultimately up to the people he serves and to his conscience.
But what I’m saying is that what matters to some black people — not all, maybe not even most — is not what a white politician did 30 years ago.
It’s what he’s doing for them today.

Who would pass the racist abstinence pledge?

I’m wary of those commentators who say they speak for an entire race of people. When a white friend sometimes asks what black people think of an issue, I sometimes tell them, “I don’t know, I missed the Weekly Meeting for All Black People in America.”
Yet I feel confident in saying this: Most are not shocked to hear that a white politician who is a purported ally is accused of doing something racist…
If black people only worked with white allies free of any racism, bias or past mistakes, we would be alone.
Before the yearbook incident, Northam won the support of Virginia’s black community. He forcefully denounced the 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that took the life of a young woman. He successfully pushed for the expansion of Obamacare in Virginia. Former President Barack Obama campaignedfor him. He won almost 90% of the black vote in his successful run for governor in 2017.
That might help him, or it may not be enough.
What matters for some is not one act from a person’s life but the entire play. Do they push for equality in the end?…
One of the reasons Johnson was such an effective champion for blacks is that he understood the Southern mind better than most. He was fighting against the same demons that he grappled with. He knew what buttons to push against the racist politicians who stood in his way.
Yet there is not much room for a politician to evolve in today’s environment. There is a “rage industrial complex” that fixates on the latest racial flashpoint: an outrageous video, remark or image that’s passed around social media like a viral grenade.
Meanwhile those banal acts of racism that don’t get caught in a photo or a tweet go by unremarked.
Here’s when I know there’s genuine racial progress.
It’s not when a white politician is caught being racist and people demand his or her head. It’s when people show the same amount of public outrage over the everyday acts of racism — voter suppression, racial profiling, redlining — that define so much of our everyday lives.
Now that would be shocking.