News

Early In Person Voting Information

September 15, 2021

While Election Day is not until Tuesday, November 2, 2021in-person early voting begins Friday, September 17th. Your in-person early voting location is most likely different from your usual polling place on Election Day. To find out more details and where you need to go to vote early in-person here is the information for the localities in my district: 

Harrisonburg 

You may vote early in City Hall (409 South Main St.) beginning 45 days before Election Day and ending the Saturday before Election Day. To vote absentee in person you must be a registered voter of Harrisonburg, provide your name and address, and show an acceptable form of ID. Early voting is open Monday through Friday, 8:30am until 4:30pm, and the last two Saturdays from 8:30am until 4:30pm.

*Curbside voting is also available in the main parking lot of City Hall. When you arrive call the Registrar’s office at 540-432-7707 to let us know that you need curbside service.

Learn more: https://www.harrisonburgva.gov/absentee-ballots

Rockingham

In-person, early voting for Rockingham County voters will be available at the locations, dates, and hours listed below beginning Friday, September 17, and ending Saturday, October 30.

20 East Gay Street, Harrisonburg 22802

Monday-Friday, 8:00 AM-4:00 PM.

This Voter Registrar’s office will also be open on Saturday, October 23, and Saturday, October 30, from 8:00 AM-4:00 PM, for in-person, early voting.

Learn more: https://www.rockinghamcountyva.gov/DocumentCenter/View/17219/Public-Notice—November-2-2021-General–Special-Elections

Page

In-person, early voting for Page County voters will be available at the following location beginning Friday, September 17, 2021, and ending Saturday, October 30, 2021, from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Voting will not be available on Monday, October 11, 2021, because offices will be closed due to Columbus Day.

103 South Court Street, Luray (County Government Center) lower level. Watch for signs. If you need assistance, please call 540-743-3986 and someone will be available to help you.

Learn more: https://www.pagecounty.virginia.gov/204/Voter-Registration

Shenandoah

In-person early voting will be available at the following location for the Nov. 2, 2021 General & Special Election:

Office of Voter Registration & Elections, 600 N. Main Street, Suite 103, Woodstock, VA 22644

Early voting will begin Friday, September 17 at the office and will continue Mon-Fri 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM until Oct. 30

Voting will not be available on Monday, October 11, 2021, because offices will be closed due to Columbus Day.

Learn more: https://shenandoahcountyva.us/voting/

Warren

In-person, early voting will be available at the following location for the November 2, 2021, General and Special Elections:

OFFICE OF ELECTIONS AND VOTER REGISTRATION 465 W 15TH STREET, SUITE 800, FRONT ROYAL, VA

In-Person Early No-Excuse Voting will begin on September 17, 2021 at the Office of Elections and Voter Registration. The hours are Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM, until Saturday, October 30, 2021.

The Warren County Office of Elections and Voter Registration will also be open on Saturday, October 23, 2021 and Saturday, October 30, 2021 from 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM.

Learn more: https://www.warrencountyva.net/images/VoterRegistrar/EarlyVotingNotice_November2021.pdf

Rappahannock

N-PERSON ABSENTEE (EARLY) VOTING
Located at 262A Gay Street Washington VA 22747

Monday – Friday, September 17 – October 29, 2021: 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Saturday, October 23 & October 30, 2021: 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Saturday October 30, 2021: Last day to vote an In-Person (early) absentee ballot at the Rappahannock County Voter Registration Office.

 Learn more: http://www.rappahannockcountyva.gov/voter.html

Other important election related dates to remember: 

October 12:  deadline to register to vote or update an existing registration

October 22:  deadline to apply for a ballot to be mailed to you. Not that your voter registration office must receive your request by 5:00 p.m.

October 30:   last day of in-person early voting

After voting against it earlier this year, Torian now says he supports repealing right-to-work

September 9, 2021

SEP 7, 2021 | VA Scope

In an election season reversal, a powerful Democrat in the House of Delegates now says repealing Virginia’s right-to-work law is a priority to him. This comes just months after he voted to kill the legislation that would have repealed the law earlier this year.

House Appropriations Chairman Luke Torian D-Prince William said in a newsletter sent to supporters on Labor Day that repealing Virginia’s right-to-work law is a priority for him. But that opportunity was before Torian earlier this year when Del. Lee Carter D-Manassas was able to get the bill on the House floor for a vote. The legislation was eventually killed on a vote of 83-13, with Torian being one of the 83 who voted against it.

The news of Torian’s reversal was first tweeted by Ben Paviour of VPM News. 

“It’s an incredible turn-around from chastising me for introducing the bill in 2019 to campaigning on it in 2021,” Carter said in an interview Tuesday. 

Carter is a self-described socialist and was defeated in his House primary earlier this summer by a more moderate candidate. He pushed for repealing the right-to-work for most of his two terms in the House. “I’m glad so many people are coming around,” he said Tuesday. 

But even after leading the charge for repealing right-to-work and losing his seat, Carter says the law still needs to be thrown out. “The law was designed to exploit racial tensions to stop working people from cooperating to fight for a better life,” Carter said. “It was terrible 70 years ago, it’s terrible now, and it’s got to go.”

Right-to-work is not a concept that is necessarily easy to grasp due to the misleading name. The law keeps unions from requiring membership at a place of employment which prevents the employees from effectively unionizing. Employees can still form a union, but they are not compelled to and employers are always free to hire non-union workers. 

28 states have right-to-work laws on the books. 

The House Republican Caucus sent out a statement Tuesday afternoon denouncing the statement from Torian. “When the Chairman of Appropriations speaks, members of the majority listen. This is a clear signal that if they hold the majority, House Democrats will push through Right to Work repeal, creating compulsory union membership for Virginians,” said Garren Shipley, a spokesman for the House Republican Caucus. “Workers who want to make their own choice on union membership should vote accordingly.”

Torian is a powerful Democrat in the House, chairing the committee that decides which legislation receives funding in the General Assembly. His campaign did not respond to a request for comment. 

The office of Speaker of the House Eileen Filler-Corn also did not respond to questions. 

“Luke Torian made clear that Virginia House Democrats are poised to repeal right-to-work if they win in November,” said Cally Perkins, a spokesperson for the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). “The Democrats who voted against right-to-work repeal in February should stop pandering to their fringe base and denounce Torian’s new position.”

AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States, says that this law makes life harder for working families. “The real purpose of ‘Right to Work’ laws is to tilt the balance toward big corporations and further rig the system at the expense of working families,” they say on their website

Torian also stated in the email to his supporters that he will prioritize paid leave for all, collective bargaining for employees, paid sick days, and increasing the minimum wage to $15/hr. He is facing a second challenge from Republican Maria Martin this November after defeating her by 47 points in 2019. 

All 100 House seats are up for election this November as well as governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. Early voting begins in less than two weeks on Sept. 17. 

James Madison University trains students that Christians, White males are ‘oppressors’

August 20, 2021

Student employees were taught oppressors have the power to define reality for themselves and others

By Jessica Chasmar| Fox News

FIRST ON FOX: James Madison University in Virginia is training student employees to recognize that people who identify as male, straight, cisgender, or Christian are “oppressors” that engage in the “systematic subjugation” of other social groups.

According to documents obtained by Fox News, student employees in charge of facilitating orientation for first-year students this fall at JMU underwent training in recent weeks to learn about social justice and inclusion. 

training video mandated for student staff, hosted by coordinators Jessica Weed and Jennifer Iwerks, described oppression as “the systematic subjugation of one social group by a more powerful social group for the social, economic and political benefit of the more powerful social group.”

The video defined an “oppressor” group as one that has the power to define reality for themselves and others, and in turn, the “target” groups “take in and internalize the negative messages about them and end up cooperating with the oppressors (thinking and acting like them).”

The presentation defined privilege as the “unearned social power accorded by the formal and informal institutions of society to ALL members of a dominant group at the expense of targeted groups.” It also said members of both the oppressor and target groups are “socialized to play their roles as normal and correct.”

The JMU training materials listed the various races and nationalities they considered “privileged” or “agents” and those they characterized as “oppressed” or “targets.” Among the privileged, according to the presentation, are people who identify as male, cisgender, heterosexual, heteroromantic, Christian, White, Western European, American, upper to middle class, thin/athletic build, able-bodied, or ages 30s to early 50s.

Among the oppressed groups, according to the presentation, are people who identify as Black, Asian, Latinx, non-Western European, LGBTQ+, homoromantic, Muslim, Jewish, working class, overweight, or disabled, among others.

After the training was completed, student employees were sent an email instructing them to “not share these materials with others.”

A JMU spokesperson told Fox News in a statement that the training was an “opportunity” for students who work in the Office of Student Affairs. 

“The training was held to help ensure that every student guide for freshmen orientation had the tools and understanding to work with incoming students, who might have a different background than their own,” the statement read. “At JMU, we strive to create an inclusive and welcoming community for all students. We also seek feedback on the training to constantly work on improving how we communicate and train student staff members.”

Defend Our Law Enforcement

August 5, 2021
Friends,

I’m in Richmond for the Special Session that Governor Northam called to allocate the over $4 billion in federal relief money that Virginia received.

He might as well have just called the Democrats to Richmond because we Republicans have had little to no ability to advocate for any of our priorities. 

Despite this, we fought for increased funding for law enforcement – sheriff’s deputies, state police and local police departments. Over the opposition of nearly all Democrats in the Senate, we managed to carry the day for and win more funding for deputies, but not for the other men and women who are on the front lines, keeping our communities safe. Even the funding for deputies has a long way to travel. House Democrats unanimously rejected a similar proposal in constructing their budget.

 https://campaign-image.com/zohocampaigns/picture1_zc_v2_938000057539004.png
https://bit.ly/3fB2UZD 

Will you chip in $100, $50, $25, or even $10 today to help us stand up to liberals who want to silence our support for law enforcement and continue to take away police funding?

This is an incredibly important issue as across the nation we see time and time again police officers disrespected, discredited, underpaid, and devalued.
 Chip in today if you can! 

Best,
https://campaign-image.com/zohocampaigns/2_zc_v2_938000057539004.jpg
Mark Obenshain

Wait, were these CNBC or MSNBC Rankings?

July 16, 2021

Friends,

You may have seen in the news recently that CNBC ranked Virginia as the top state in which to do business.

If you’re like me, your eyebrows rose when you read it. My mind immediately went to all of the liberal priorities that Governor Northam and his allies in Richmond have pushed through since taking control in 2019.

Higher taxes, increased minimum wage, burdensome regulations, higher energy costs, California style green energy mandates, more liability for employers…the list goes on and on.

So how – in spite of all of these anti-business policies adopted over the past year – can we still be the best state to do business? Steve Haner, from the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy wondered the same thing. In a column he wrote this week, he pointed to other factors adding to his perplexity, including Virginia’s cost of living and the cost of doing business rankings, which clocked in at numbers 32 and 24 respectively. Virginia ranked a mediocre 19 in job growth. Our “Business Friendliness” score also dropped from the top three in 2019 to eleventh this year. Not great trends if we want to grow Virginia’s economy. Steve decided to take a deeper dive into Virginia’s #1 ranking and what he found was enlightening.

It seems that Virginia was saved by a brand-new ranking category introduced by CNBC’s into its calculation. It’s a category called “Life, Health and Inclusion.” I guess we should have expected something like this from the sister network to MSNBC. There had to be a way to reward states like Virginia for their embrace of the woke and liberal initiatives now so in vogue among the media and liberal elite. In an effort to explain this new category, CNBC says “we have expanded our measures of inclusiveness, looking more deeply at protections against discrimination, as well as at voting rights and current efforts to expand or restrict access to the polls, based on legislation enacted as of June 1, 2021” As Steve point out in his column, the data shows that the “preference of actual businesses seems significantly at odds with CNBC’s rankings.”

Maybe Steve can do us the further favor of letting us know where Virginia would rank using last year’s criteria. It will not provide any cause for celebration.

If you’d like to help out our cause in the fight to stand up for our conservative values and common sense policies, click below to donate securely online or send a check payable to Friends of Mark Obenshain to P.O. Box 555 Harrisonburg, VA  22803.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE

Best,

Mark Obenshain

Businesses Unable to Fill Job Openings

June 4, 2021

NFIB’s chief economist William C. Dunkelberg, issued the following comments on NFIB’s May 2021 Jobs Report


NFIB Chief Economist
William Dunkelberg

A record-high 48% of small business owners in May reported unfilled job openings (seasonally adjusted), according to NFIB’s monthly jobs report. May is the fourth consecutive month of record-high readings for unfilled job openings and is 26 points higher than the 48-year historical reading of 22%.

“Small business owners are struggling at record levels trying to get workers back in open positions,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Owners are offering higher wages to try to remedy the labor shortage problem. Ultimately, higher labor costs are being passed on to customers in higher selling prices.”

Sixty-one percent of owners reported hiring or trying to hire in May. Owners have plans to fill open positions with a seasonally adjusted net 27% planning to create new jobs in the next three months.

A net 34% of owners (seasonally adjusted) reported raising compensation, the highest level in the past 12 months. A net 22% of owners plan to raise compensation in the next three months, up two points from April.

Small business owners continue to report finding qualified employees remains a problem with 93% of owners hiring or trying to hire reported few or no “qualified” applications for the positions they were trying to fill in May. Thirty-two percent of owners reported few qualified applicants for their positions and 25% reported none.

Eight percent of owners cited labor costs as their top business problem and 26% said that labor quality was their top business problem, the top business concern.

Forty percent of small business owners have job openings for skilled workers and 27% have openings for unskilled labor. In the construction industry, 51% of job openings are for skilled workers. Sixty-six percent of construction businesses reported few or no qualified applicants.

Click here to view the entire NFIB Jobs Report

The full Small Business Economic Trends report will be released on Tuesday, June 8th.

Opinion: Time for Virginia to reject federal COVID-19 unemployment benefits

May 29, 2021

By BRYAN K. STEPHENS and BOB MCKENNAFOR THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT |MAY 29, 2021 AT 6:05 PM

After 15 months of varying levels of shutdown and mandated restrictions on our businesses, our economy is ready to boom once again, and we’re all ready to get back to living a normal life heading into the summer. That obviously includes reconnecting with friends and family at restaurants and bars and heading to the beach or mountains for well-deserved breaks and missed celebrations of life’s events.

Hampton Roads Chamber President and CEO Bryan K. Stephens
Hampton Roads Chamber President and CEO Bryan K. Stephens (Helen’s Place Photography 757-229-1702/Courtesy of Hampton Roads Chamber)

Many people have built up rainy-day funds that they are ready to spend, patronizing those businesses (such as restaurants, theme parks and hotels) that had to scrape by and adapt to the shutdowns and restrictions just to survive. Now with the pandemic subsiding, they are ready to open to full capacity.

Bob McKenna
Bob McKenna (Courtesy photo)

So we should all be looking forward to a great summer filled with fun, travel, celebrations, amazing food and great fellowship, right? Whoa, not so fast! Restaurants, bars, hotels, entertainment venues and amusement parks (among many other retail-type businesses) are struggling mightily right now to find enough employees to keep their doors open under the COVID-19 restrictions, much less to open to full capacity.

We have a unique and counter-intuitive situation where unemployment is relatively high, yet there is also a labor shortage. Job fairs are empty, job interviews are missed, and “we’re hiring” signs are in the window of just about every restaurant and retail business in town. Restaurants such as McDonald’s offer signing bonuses and cash just to get people to show up for interviews. And, still, they are desperate to hire more.

How can this be? Here’s the problem: the federal government, through the best of intentions, is providing enhanced federal unemployment benefits to the tune of $300 per week extra. So, essentially, not working is being subsidized. This cannot continue if we are going to have a thriving summer and beyond.

After spending trillions of dollars on pandemic relief, we can no longer afford to pay people to stay at home. Mask mandates are going away, pandemic restrictions are being loosened or eliminated, and the vaccine is widely available. It’s time to encourage people to get back to work and back to normal, not stay at home and do nothing. Numerous states have already decided to opt-out of this extra money. Those states also see their unemployment levels shrink back to pre-pandemic numbers and businesses opening to full capacity.

Numerous regional organizations are trying to solve this problem with training programs and employment assistance. For instance, the Hampton Roads Workforce Council provides tremendous support for job seekers. So even for those individuals who lost their jobs due to the pandemic and feel they are unqualified to seek other employment, there are plenty of job training opportunities and assistance available in Hampton Roads. Reach out to them. Get the training and assistance you need. Get employed.

Gov, Ralph Northam can help too. It’s time for the commonwealth to say “no thanks” to the federal government and opt out of further federal unemployment compensation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, the benefit is scheduled to run out on Sept. 1, but that’s too late for us, especially for those in the restaurant, lodging and tourism industries.

The summer of 2021 should be a memorable, less stressful one in Hampton Roads, one in which our businesses experience a tremendous recovery from the pain of last summer. However, we need our businesses to be fully up and running for that to happen. And for them to be fully up and running, they need employees.

Let’s ensure all who visit Hampton Roads this summer know we are open for business.

Bryan K. Stephens is president and CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. Bob McKenna is president and CEO of the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.

Texas governor signs law banning abortions early as 6 weeks

May 19, 2021

Fox News | May 19

Law prohibits state officials from enforcing the ban, but allows lawsuits against abortion providers.

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Texas became the largest state Wednesday with a law that bans abortions before many women even know they are pregnant, but with a unique provision that essentially leaves enforcement to private citizens through lawsuits against doctors or anyone who helps a woman get an abortion.

The law signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott puts Texas in line with more than a dozen other states that ban abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, as early as six weeks. Federal courts have mostly blocked the measures from taking effect.

But with the Supreme Court this week agreeing to take up a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, abortion rights activists worry that a ruling favorable to the state could lay the groundwork for allowing even more abortion restrictions, including so-called heartbeat bills.

Texas’ version is unique in that it prohibits state officials from enforcing the ban. Instead, it allows anyone — even someone outside Texas — to sue an abortion provider or anyone else who may have helped someone get an abortion after the limit, and seek financial damages of up to $10,000 per defendant.

Critics say that provision would allow abortion opponents to flood the courts with lawsuits to harass doctors, patients, nurses, domestic violence counselors, a friend who drove a woman to a clinic, or even a parent who paid for a procedure.

Texas law currently bans abortion after 20 weeks, with exceptions for a woman with a life-threatening medical condition or if the fetus has a severe abnormality. More than 90% of abortions take place in the first 13 weeks of a woman’s pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Supreme Court will probably hear the Mississippi case in the fall, with a decision likely in spring 2022.

EDITORIAL: Don’t eliminate advanced diplomas

May 18, 2021

BY THE EDITORIAL PAGE STAFF OF THE FREE LANCE-STAR May 18, 2021

UBLIC school students in Virginia are entitled to an education that best fits their specific needs. This applies not only to students who are struggling academically, but also to students who are willing and able to do accelerated work.

Last month, a committee of the Virginia Department of Education looked at the possibility of consolidating the commonwealth’s standard and advanced diplomas as a way to achieve racial equity. “There does continue to be a stark difference in which students we see earning which diploma,” said Leslie Sale, director of the VDOE Office of Policy. She noted that in 2019, 79 percent of Asian students earned advanced diplomas, compared with 63 percent of white students, 44 percent of Hispanic students, and 40 percent of Black students.

But the most stark difference between them is not race. It’s how much effort students put in to earn an advanced diploma instead of a standard diploma.

The minimum requirements for a standard diploma are four years of English, three years of mathematics, three years of a lab science, and three years of history and social science in addition to physical education and various electives, for a total of 22 credits. However, earning an advanced diploma includes an extra year of mathematics, laboratory science, history and social science and three years of a foreign language, for a total of 26 credits.

A 2014 VDOE-sponsored study by the Virginia College and Career Readiness Institute found that 83 percent of students who earned an advanced diploma enrolled in college and remained enrolled until they earned an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, compared with just 46 percent of students who earned a standard diploma.

And VDOE’S own 2012 study, “High School Predictors of College Readiness,” noted that research “showed unequivocally that when [racial/ethnic minority] students reach higher levels of achievement in high school, their chances of success in college are much closer to those of other students who have the same level of achievement.”

The reason for this is simple: “These diploma types demand vastly different requirements of students during their four years in high school,” according to the study. And since an advanced diploma is also better aligned with college-level coursework, minority students arrive on campus better prepared to succeed.

Turning the clear difference between diplomas into a racial equity issue does a great disservice to all students, including minority students, who take on the challenges of a harder course load in high school. All students should be told the truth as freshmen that, as the CCRI study points out, “diploma types matter,” not only in preparing students for college and helping them earn a degree, but also in finding a well-paying job in the increasingly technological workplace beyond college as well.

If a disproportionately low number of Black and Hispanic students are signing up for the advanced studies diploma, the solution is not to get rid of the diploma, but for educators in elementary and middle schools to ask themselves some difficult questions:

Are they identifying and mentoring smart minority kids? Are they sufficiently challenging these students and steering them into advanced work, or are they accepting average or sub-standard work from them due to what former President George W. Bush called “the soft bigotry of low expectations?” Have they explained to parents how important it is to make sure their minority child is on grade level well before they get to high school?

It’s much easier to lower the bar than to raise student achievement. But that doesn’t promote equity for anyone.

Skepticism persists over new admissions policy for Thomas Jefferson High School

May 18, 2021

BY ANUJ KHEMKA / For InsideNoVa May 18, 2021

Krish Bommakanti spent two years preparing to apply to the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.  Costly test prep courses and countless hours of studying would be worth it if it meant admission to the top-ranked public high school in the nation. 

But on Nov. 9, the Fairfax County School Board moved to remove the standardized test that students work so tirelessly to ace. Weeks later, the board decided that socioeconomic status and region would factor into the admission process. 

“The changes are a bit disheartening because I spent a lot of time preparing for the actual standardized test,” said Bommakanti, an eighth-grader at Longfellow Middle School in the Falls Church area.

As Thomas Jefferson – a magnet school attended by students from across Northern Virginia – prepares to offer admission to the first class selected under the new guidelines, community members and policy-makers continue to be skeptical of the changes. 

From June through December last year, factions of parents, alumni and policy-makers fiercely debated the merit of proposed changes to TJ’s admissions process. As dual advocacy groups – the Coalition for TJ and the TJ Alumni Action Group – formed, spirited protests took place on campus, infighting emerged within school Facebook groups and once-mundane Parent Teacher Student Association meetings became tense battlegrounds. 

And the School Board’s decision Dec. 17 to transition to a holistic review system didn’t end the doubt and division.

The parent-led Coalition for TJ, for example, filed a lawsuit in December to combat the removal of a standardized test and launched another case March 10 aimed at admissions criteria that take into account region and socioeconomic status. Both cases currently await hearings in court. 

Meanwhile, both prospective and current students also hold reservations about the changes. In previous years, admissions officers used a combination of teacher recommendations, grade-point average, the standardized test and four timed short essays to evaluate applicants. With the School Board’s decision, teacher recommendations and the standardized test have been removed from the mix, although the timed essays remain. 

“I think standardized tests do well to show where you rank among your peers. Implementing one is a good way of determining a hierarchy,” Bommakanti said. 

However, eighth-graders Dhruv Chandna and Daniel Campos – both of whom also took test prep courses in anticipation of applying to TJ – approve of the change. Chandna attends Robert Frost Middle School, while Campos goes to Luther Jackson Middle School. 

“I like the way they did it, and I think it will improve diversity,” Chandna said. Test prep classes are expensive, he noted.  “Some people don’t have that money, so it’s very hard for them to get into TJ.”

In place of the tests and teacher recommendations, students’ socioeconomic status and other so-called “experience factors” will now be taken into account. It’s here, however, that Campos believes the School Board made a mistake. 

“Why would you need [to consider] socioeconomic status?” Campos said. “The most important thing is the student, and if they’re going to excel at the school. I don’t think their background and how much money their family has has anything to do with it. It should be based on the student’s capacity and knowledge.”

However, TJ senior Dinan Elsyad, one of the few Black students who attend the school, worries that the School Board did not go far enough in this aspect, even though she acknowledges that legally race cannot be a factor in the decision.  

“The process itself doesn’t really take into account the inequities that come along with a specific race that you’re a part of,” Elsyad added. “I went to a wealthy middle school. I am not part of a lower socioeconomic status group. Technically, I shouldn’t have had issues, but I was harassed by several teachers during my middle school years just because of my race.” 

One of the most significant changes to the TJ admissions process is the implementation of individual-school quotas. At a minimum, the number of students admitted from each public middle school will be equivalent to 1.5% of their eighth-grade student population. For example, a middle school with 800 eighth-graders would send a minimum of 12 students to TJ, assuming that at least 12 eighth-graders out of the 800 choose to apply. The county has 23 public middle schools, with student populations as high as 1,500. In total, 550 prospective students will be offered seats at TJ for the fall. 

The change seeks to correct a longstanding lack of geographical diversity at the school. More than half of the students admitted to TJ’s Class of 2019, for example, came from just five of the public middle schools in Fairfax. 

“There was concern that TJ didn’t reflect geographic diversity in our county – that we were disproportionately drawing from certain middle schools,” School Board member Megan McLaughlin said. “By these changes, going school by school, we will certainly see improved access to TJ for students who are dealing with poverty.” 

During the 2019-20 school year, just 2.4% of TJ students qualified for free or reduced lunch. Countywide, the percent of students eligible for free or reduced lunch stood much higher, at 32%. 

However, McLaughlin believes that the individual-school quotas may underrepresent students at Advanced Academic Program centers as well as students at known feeder schools into TJ – where families often move to increase their children’s chances of admission to the magnet school. 

“Students at AAP centers are getting the same number of allocated admission seats at TJ as all of the other middle schools. This gives me pause,” McLaughlin said. 

Having completed their timed essays in March, TJ’s newest applicants now wait anxiously for their results, expected in June.  For many, the prevailing question is whether the changes will solve the issues that they sought to address in the first place. 

“We just have to wait and see,” Elsyad said. 

Anuj Khemka is a junior at Thomas Jefferson, where he is the online editor-in-chief of the student news outlet tjTODAY.