When thousands of bureaucrats and school administrators set up the Virginia General Assembly for failure, that’s a problem of bad faith extending towards raw malice.
The Youngkin administration is being awfully tight lipped on the who-shot-John portion of this story, but you can probably guess what happened.
The problem originated with an online tool that allows school districts to see how much funding they should expect from the state, a number that takes into account the district’s number of students, how much it receives in property tax revenue and other factors.
The tool has been up since June 2022, allowing districts to build their budgets around the estimations. But last week, someone — the state would not say who — realized that the numbers were wrong. The miscalculation occurred after the state failed to account for funding changes connected to the elimination of the state’s tax on groceries, which took effect Jan. 1.
Now obviously, you can blame the online tool. But someone has to feed that online tool the metrics used to calculate the LCI.
Which means there’s an ocean of bureaucrats working at the Virginia Department of Education who could have caught the problem — but didn’t (or couldn’t).
Perhaps you’ve seen this story before?
This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to do and Everybody was asked to do it.
Everybody was sure Somebody would do it.
Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry because it was Everybody’s job.
Everybody thought Anybody would do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.
It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.
Which I suppose points us to a wider problem in state government that everyone suspects — and perhaps knows — but no one really wants to poke at for fear of turning a quiet understanding into an open misunderstanding.
When Democrats are in power, the machinery of government seems to enjoy a conspiracy of silence. All things run smoothly, albeit with a general sense of mediocrity, and the errors and mischief that surrounds any human institution are quietly smothered in a loving troika of understanding between the institutions: bureaucracy, media, and public education.
barbarians Republicans arrive.
The Last Confederacy the Democrats Still Love: Dunces
All of the sudden, mistakes get made. Not just mistakes, but Scandals! (TM). Not just Scandals! (TM) but the big sort of mistakes that hurt people, careers, professions, and the public good — but mostly with an eye towards embarrassing (either through action or inaction) those whom Virginia has chosen to govern.
The hard truth? Elected officials don’t govern; bureaucrats do. And if they don’t like their babysitters? They act up — and make sure that the press and the system blame the babysitter.
There are a few thousand state employees and about 134 local public school administrators who are paid handsomely to make sure these problems do not occur on the public dime.
Were they all this incompetent?
Did no one know to ask how cutting the local sales tax on food would impact the LCI?
Did none of our state or local bureaucrats think to raise this question?
Hanlon’s Razor suggests that one should not attribute to malice what can easily be attributed to stupidity. Fair enough — but that doesn’t quite sort out the problem when it comes to who is minding the store. Are we to believe the latter and assume that a few hundred doctorates with a few thousand more staff — all experts? — simply missed a $202 million funding gap attached to one of the marquee (and to date, most meaningful) accomplishment of the Youngkin administration? Are we seriously to believe that the Virginia Education Association (VEA) simply misplaced their talking points and went dark for six months?
Simply put? Someone — or a group of someones — set up their boss(es) to fail. Worse than that, they are toying with Virginia’s K-12 students who are already suffering in test scores and attention spans after a mishandled pandemic response.
That’s the most direct answer — Occam’s Razor, in case you are wondering.
Treating the Public (and Elected Officials) as a Pathogens, Not Partners
Which means this isn’t the Youngkin administration’s fault by a mile.
Rather, the thousands of people who pretend to care about education who are more concerned about paychecks than progress — people more than happy to take hostages and shoot when their demands are not met.
If that doesn’t sound like good government, then you’d be right. Of the seven institutions, five are firmly in the hands of the political left in this country — media, entertainment, public education, academia, and the bureaucracy. One is being contested (churches); the other is firmly in the hands of the right (military and first responders).
To the people employed by these sclerotic institutions, reform is a dagger aimed straight at the heart of the problem.
The very notion that our children deserve better than a system which strives for mediocrity is anathema to these people, precisely because it means the old system might very well have to yield to a superior one which has little need for administrators, DEI apparatchiks, and whining-as-policy.
They would rather let it fail. . . than allow just a smidgen of reform to enter under the tent. Any outsider is an enemy; every reformer a pathogen. Pathogens get destroyed, and when a public service begins to view the parents who participate in the system as problems to be solved (or stamped out) rather than partners?
Don’t worry — they lost the narrative about 50 years ago.
“We Have a Word For That Kind of Odd in English…”
Brass tacks being what they are, it doesn’t take much brain power to recognize that this $202 million shortfall could have been caught by anyone.
In short, somehow the nerve center which comprises the political left knew to stay quiet on this matter — that’s state government, accountants, local governments, local administrators, local budget wonks, countless doctorates in education and countless more paid handsome six-figure salaries to run the process with integrity.
AND NO ONE DID.
The reason? Because this has nothing to do with education, or bureaucracy, or what the media pays attention to (or doesn’t). It has everything to do with raw power and the maintenance and adjudication of that power.
Need proof? Here’s your moment of clarity from the WaPo:
Del. Schuyler T. VanValkenburg (D-Henrico) expressed frustration over the error, criticizing the Youngkin administration for expending so much energy on what he characterized as distractions, including a tip line for parents to report teachers they don’t like, a policy sharply restricting the rights of transgender students and an error-plagued rollout of history teaching standards, he said.
“At a certain point, your manpower is being so driven by these ideological crusades that you’re not minding the store,” said VanValkenburg, a high school civics teacher. (emphasis added)
Now that’s just damn uncanny, innit?
The same VanValkenburg considering a run against State Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico)?
The same VanValkenburg who sits on the special committee? The same VanValkenburg who magically gets quoted in the WaPo for delivering the gotcha moment in which a legion of functionaries both state and local should have known (because it’s their job) but magically forgot? The same VanValkenburg who pops this information to the press (and not his colleagues) just hours after crossover?! Weird, right!!
How did all that come together neat and tidy?
Guess we will never know — it is a M-Y-S-T-E-R-Y. Or at the very least, it suggests that there might be something missing in our high school civics lessons, eh?
Maybe The Real Scandal Is Bad Faith?
They could have raised the question early and in good faith corrected at $202 million error. Instead, they waited for the “gotcha” right around budget reconciliation time and will now turn to conferees who will — naturally — fill in the funding gap.
But why let good process and good government get in the way of bad faith and hamstringing when power is at stake, right?
Which is the problem, folks.
Who decides has become more important than what is being decided, and if it harms our K-12 students to the tune of nine-figures? That apparently is an acceptable cost to the hive mind on the political left if and only if it embarrasses the Youngkin administration.
I don’t care who you are — that’s horrible. Not unfortunate or bad, but downright malicious.
Democrats will make the mistake of pointing towards other people’s bad behavior. That right there is bad faith. That right there is how you tell the good guys from the bad guys — and believe me, Republicans have their bad guys, too.
But this sort of cultural need to destroy not only one’s opposition but to hold hostage the very parents, teachers, and students we intend to educate as hostages in a political power struggle?
This is why people turn on Democrats. It is why people turn on Republicans when we imitate the left rather than work for good process. Frankly, it’s why people turn not just on politics but why we lose faith in our unelected institutions writ large.
Of course, for the Democrats? They are on year 2 of waiting out Youngkin’s 4-year term — which they intend to do as they become the “Party of No” with the remaining months they have left. That should frustrate defenders of process and good government to no end, because no matter who you are or what your values might be, abrogating the electoral process in favor of unelected institutions who can at will drag their feet or perform at less-than-professional levels isn’t what America ought to be about.
More to the point, it backfills the suspicions of center-right Virginians that the institutions aren’t really working for the rest of us. Hillary Clinton had to have such hubris corrected the hard way in 2016.
What further lessons will the political left require before they learn to breathe with both lungs rather than rock the pendulum?
Apparently, $202 million ripped from the hands of local school districts is acceptable collateral damage — provided we can say “oops!” along the way.