On December 14, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam continued his ‘Thank You, Virginia’ Tour, announcing that unprecedented economic strength is enabling the Commonwealth to both invest in long-term priorities—by raising salaries for teachers and law enforcement, funding Historically Black Colleges and Universities at record levels, boosting outdoor recreation, and more—while also reducing taxes to help working people.
The Governor noted that many working people have not experienced the booming national economy that has helped many professionals and office-based workers get ahead and build wealth during the pandemic.
“When Virginia cuts taxes next year, it should be done in a way that benefits working people,” said Governor Northam. “Many professionals made it through the pandemic fine, as their work simply moved online. But workers haven’t been so lucky when their jobs require close contact with other people. Some jobs simply can’t move online—restaurant workers, early childhood educators, home care attendants, and others—and we all depend on the people who do this work. Virginia can help working people by eliminating the state grocery tax, providing one-time rebates, and giving a tax break to people who are working.”
Governor Northam is proposing four changes to tax policy:
• Eliminating the state sales tax on groceries. Governor Northam first proposed eliminating this regressive tax on low-income individuals when he ran for Governor in 2017. Virginia’s unprecedented economic strength now makes this possible. The state grocery tax is 1.5%. Most states do not tax groceries. This proposal does not affect local revenues.
• Providing an income tax cut for working families. Governor Northam proposed to make up to 15 percent of the federal earned income tax credit (EITC) refundable for eligible families, which will give a tax break to working families who need it most. The EITC reduces the amount that low- and middle-income working people owe in taxes. Making it “refundable” means people will get a refund from the state if they are working but earning income below a certain level. The amount depends on income level, marital status, and family size. This program was started at the national level by former President Richard Nixon, a Republican. The Governor proposed a similar plan in 2019.
• Offering one-time ‘economic growth rebates.’ The Governor is proposing one-time tax rebates to everyone who files state income taxes in Virginia—$250 for individuals and $500 for married couples—so that everyone benefits from the Commonwealth’s unprecedented economic growth. Low- and middle-income working people will benefit from this the most. Governor Northam and the legislature last offered tax rebates in 2019, providing $110 for individual filers and $220 for married couples.
• Ending ‘accelerated sales tax’ payments for retailers. When you pay sales tax at a store or online, the retailer collects it for the state, and then forwards the money along to the Commonwealth. But when the economy collapsed in 2008, the state began requiring many retailers to pre-pay these tax payments early—before they had even collected the revenue. This placed a burden on retailers, causing them to dip into their own pockets. Governor Northam is proposing to end this system.
Together, these plans are expected to reduce state revenues by a total of $2.1 billion. Most of this amount is a one-time reduction for the state’s General Fund, and $419 million is an ongoing obligation. All ongoing tax cuts will directly benefit working people through changes to the EITC and the elimination of the regressive state grocery tax.
The Governor said his budget proposal also will put $1.7 billion into the Revenue Stabilization Fund, set aside $1 billion for the Virginia Retirement System, and allocate $2.8 billion for capital projects in state government and higher education buildings.
“Virginia is able to take these steps now because our sound fiscal leadership has shaped a booming economy,” said Secretary of Finance Joe Flores. “These steps are tools to make sure that working people share in the prosperity.”
“Virginia has been named the best state for business for three years running and we have a remarkably strong economy, but not everyone is benefitting equally,” said Delegate Lamont Bagby, chair of the Legislative Black Caucus. “This tax plan focuses on Virginians who need help and who have largely not benefited from our strong economy. This is the right way to help working people and provide equity in our tax policy.”
The Governor made the announcement at The Market at 25th, a community-driven grocery store in Richmond’s East End.
Virginia’s Finances Are Strong
Under Governor Northam, Virginia’s financial reserves are at record levels.
• Governor Northam leaves office proposing more than $3.8 billion in financial reserves. That’s 16.8% of state revenues–and more than eight times the amount Virginia had in the bank when he took office. In 2018, those same reserves stood at just $440 million, so he set a then-ambitious goal to get to 8% during his four-year term.
• This is unprecedented in Virginia history.
Virginia closed Fiscal Year 2021—the pandemic year—with a record surplus: $2.6 billion.
• Unlike some other states, Virginia managed through the pandemic without cutting services, laying off workers, or borrowing to pay the bills.
Virginia has preserved a AAA bond rating since 1938, longer than any other state.
• Virginia shares this first-place ranking with just 13 other states.
• When rating agency Fitch reaffirmed Virginia’s AAA in July 2021, it said:
• Virginia’s ‘AAA’ bond rating reflects its solid fiscal resources, conservative approach to financial operations and exceptional financial flexibility.
• The commonwealth’s strong fundamental economic profile provides a stable revenue base and solid growth prospects.
• Virginia also maintains a low long-term liability burden relative to economic resources.
• Virginia’s fundamental economic profile remains strong, with a diverse mix of industries and high wealth. Fitch expects the commonwealth’s economy to absorb the negative effects of the pandemic and return to a steady pace of growth over the near term.
• The commonwealth’s long-term economic growth prospects are solid, with above-average population growth and high education levels.
Governor Glenn Youngkin announces the restoration of rights for thousands of Virginians
Governor Glenn Youngkin announced on May 20, 2022, that civil rights have been restored to 3,496 Virginians. The consideration for restoration of rights is coordinated by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, in conjunction with the Department of Corrections, with thorough consideration by the Department of Elections, Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, and the Compensation Board.
“I am encouraged that over 3,400 Virginians will take this critical first step towards vibrant futures as citizens with full civil rights,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “Individuals with their rights restored come from every walk of life and are eager to provide for themselves and their families and put the past behind them for a better tomorrow.”
“The restoration of rights process provides a fresh step forward for individuals who have made mistakes but have done their duty to our community and wish to be full and productive citizens of our Commonwealth,” said Secretary Kay Coles James. “I look forward to their successful futures.”
The administration will be restoring rights on an ongoing basis. Individuals looking to have rights restored and meet the criteria should visit www.restore.virginia.gov. Applicants waiting for rights to be restored may check the status of an application online.
Governor Glenn Youngkin announces the Commonwealth’s April unemployment rate unchanged from March at three percent
RICHMOND, VA – On May 20, 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced Virginia’s unemployment rate held steady at 3 percent in April, while total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 13,600 jobs. The Commonwealth’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3 percent is 1.3 percentage points below the rate from a year ago. The labor force increased by 18,281 to 4,329,907, as the number of unemployed residents decreased by 1,324 to 129,771. The number of employed residents rose by 19,605 to 4,200,136.
According to BLS household survey data, Virginia’s labor force expanded to over 4.3 million workers in April 2022. Since February of this year, the labor force grew by over 52,000. The average monthly growth in the size of the labor force from February through April of 2022 was 17,352, while the 2021 average was -1,653. Labor force growth March’s labor force growth was the second-largest monthly increase while April’s was the third-largest going back to 1976.
The Commonwealth’s labor force participation rate rose by 0.2 of a percentage point to 63.5 percent in April. The labor force participation rate measures the proportion of the civilian population age 16 and older that is employed or actively looking for work.
“We have more than 60,000 Virginians working today than when I took office,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “Our state continues to add jobs month after month as we expand opportunities for businesses and families in every corner of the Commonwealth. There’s more work to be done, Virginia is still thousands of jobs short of pre-pandemic levels. Our mission remains clear, continue making Virginia the best place to live, work and raise a family.”
“The number of employed residents has risen a total of nearly 62,000 and by an average of 20,500 during February, March, and April in 2022, compared to averaging under 5,000 a month in 2021,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Caren Merrick. “Also, the labor force participation rate rose to 63.5 percent — nearly a full percentage point higher than at the end of 2021. This is an indication that many Virginians are getting off the sidelines and back into the game.”
“The unemployment rate has not risen in two years and is a third lower than a year ago,” said Secretary of Labor Bryan Slater. “While the unemployment rate can sometimes go down even when jobs are lost, VEC data for April showed total employment went up while unemployment went down. These trends indicate that Virginia’s recovery from the most recent recession is moving forward.”
Virginia payroll employment increased by 13,600 to 4,037,800 in April. From April 2021 to April 2022, the VEC estimates that establishments in Virginia gained 124,500 jobs, an increase of 3.2 percent. In April, the private sector recorded an over-the-year gain of 115,700 jobs, while employment in the public sector gained 8,800 jobs.
Compared to a year ago, on a seasonally adjusted basis, nine of eleven major industry divisions experienced employment increases while two saw employment decreases. The largest over-the-year job gain occurred in leisure and hospitality, up 62,400 jobs (+18.4%). The second-largest over-the-year job gain occurred in professional and business services, with up to 18,600 jobs (+2.4%). The next largest over-the-year job gain occurred in education and health services, with up to 18,000 jobs (+3.4%). Other job gains occurred in trade and transportation (+11,200 jobs), government (+8,800 jobs), miscellaneous (+6,400 jobs), information (+2,300 jobs), construction (+300 jobs), and mining (+200 jobs). Within government, local (+2,500 jobs) and state government (+700 jobs) both gained jobs over the year while the federal government saw a decrease in employment (-700 jobs). The largest job loss during April occurred in finance (-2,700 jobs) to 207,500. The second-largest decrease occurred in manufacturing with a decrease of 1,000 jobs to 235,900.
For more details, visit the Virginia Employment Commission’s website at vec.virginia.gov.
Port of Virginia secures all necessary federal investment for making Virginia the US east coast’s deepest port
The Port of Virginia® and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers today, May 20, 2022, signed the agreement committing the federal government to begin its financial investment in the construction effort to widen and deepen the commercial shipping channels and Norfolk Harbor. Close collaboration with Army Corps has the project on schedule for completion in 2024.
With a group of federal and state officials in attendance, Virginia Port Authority CEO Stephen A. Edwards and Col. Brian P. Hallberg, the US Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District commander, signed the Project Partnership Agreement. The document formally commits the port and the Army Corps to collaborate to deliver the Norfolk Harbor widening and deepening project. Further, it allows the Army Corps to use federal funding to award its first construction contract on the project.
“The importance of this moment in the evolution of The Port of Virginia cannot be overstated,” Edwards said. “This is a modern, 21st-century port, and when you couple our land-based assets and capabilities with the deepest and widest channels — and safest harbor — on the entire U.S. East Coast, you have a recipe for success here for decades to come.
“We absolutely would not be here today if it weren’t for the perseverance of our elected leaders at the federal and state levels, the US Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District office, and the Virginia Maritime Association. Everyone played a critical role in this project, and it is important to thank them for their support and effort. The Virginia Legislature funded the entire project cost up-front with the understanding that the federal government would share half the cost. Today, we welcome the federal government representatives who are here to finalize that commitment,” Edwards added.
The signing ceremony was attended by US Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Shalanda D. Young, director of the US Office of Management and Budget, US Reps Elaine Luria (D-VA) and Bobby Scott (D-VA), Jamie A. Pinkham, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Virginia Transportation Secretary W. Shepphard “Shep” Miller III, Virginia Sen. Louise Lucas, and Virginia Del. Robert Bloxom Jr.
The commercial shipping channels from the Atlantic Ocean and into the harbor are being deepened to at least 55-feet and made wide enough to safely accommodate two-way traffic of ultra-large container ships. These features put the port ahead of its East Coast peers and in a unique position to attract more cargo and increase efficiency at its terminals. Edwards said the biggest ships afloat will be able safely sail to-and-from the port fully laden with containers. And, he said, the wider channels and two-way ship traffic means greater use of the port’s vessel berths.
“The benefits of this project are unparalleled anywhere on the US East Coast,” Edwards said.
The final installment of the federal investment, $72 million, included the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The federal government and the port agreed to a 50-50 cost share of the project at its outset in 2015 when the Army Corps began evaluating the economic value of a deeper and wider Norfolk Harbor and commercial shipping channel. The dredging work began in December 2019, nearly two-and-a-half years ahead of schedule.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law continues to deliver for Hampton Roads, Luria said. “I was proud to join my colleagues in securing an additional investment of more than $69 million in the port to expand economic opportunities for Coastal Virginia, the Commonwealth, and the country. This agreement today will strengthen the public-private partnership that supports the Port of Virginia and ensures that the Port remains a vital economic engine.”
“This historic investment through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will allow more goods to move faster through the port, drive significant new economic opportunities to Norfolk, and help bring down costs for families across Virginia and the country,” said OMB Director Young. “This [investment] is in addition to the $150 million the Biden-Harris Administration is providing to protect families and businesses in Norfolk and across the region from the impacts of climate change by building floodwalls, storm surge barriers, levees, and other flood-control measures. I want to thank Senator Warner, Representative Scott, and Representative Luria for their partnership in securing these federal investments to keep this community safe.”
While the project will help drive the port’s cargo volumes, the dredge work contains an important and useful byproduct: dredge material that will benefit regional beaches.
“Over the course of the project, we’ll dredge a large volume of sands – millions of cubic yards,” said Keith Lockwood, Norfolk District Water Resources Division chief. “The US Army Corps of Engineers and Virginia Port Authority are collaborating with the cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach to maximize the beneficial use of this dredged sand by placing it along beaches for additional coastal protection.”
(The Virginia Port Authority (VPA) is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The VPA owns and, through its private operating subsidiary, Virginia International Terminals, LLC (VIT), operates four general cargo facilities Norfolk International Terminals, Portsmouth Marine Terminal, Newport News Marine Terminal, and the Virginia Inland Port in Warren County. The VPA leases Virginia International Gateway and Richmond Marine Terminal. A recent economic impact study from The College of William and Mary shows that The Port of Virginia helps to create about 437,000 jobs and generated nearly $100 billion in total economic impact throughout the Commonwealth on an annual basis.)
Governor Glenn Youngkin ceremonially signs legislation to support Virginia’s military, veteran community and proclamation honoring Armed Forces Day
RICHMOND, VA – Governor Glenn Youngkin ceremonially signed 23 bills highlighting the priorities of Virginia’s military and veteran community. After delivering remarks, Governor Youngkin also signed a proclamation to honor Armed Forces Day, which will be recognized on May 21, 2022.
“Making Virginia the best place for military service members and their families to live and the number one state for service members to retire has been a priority of mine since day one. Our military makes sacrifices daily, and the Commonwealth owes them great gratitude and support to them and their families, ” said Governor Youngkin. “ I am proud of the significant bipartisan effort around the 23 bills we are here to celebrate today, but this is just the beginning. When the time comes for service members to retire…to turn the page on the next chapter of their life…we want them to make Virginia their permanent home. To help make that possible, we are working diligently to eliminate taxes on the first $40,000 in military retirement pay. Our message is simple: when you come back to the safety of our shores and eventually retire, we want you to retire here, in the great Commonwealth of Virginia.”
“As a Marine veteran, it is heartwarming to see the many pieces of legislation that passed to encourage veterans to call Virginia home – for work reciprocity for spouses, and for their children to have educational choices. Promises made, promises kept,” said Lieutenant Governor Winsome Sears.
“Freedom is not free. Virginia’s veteran and military community have dedicated their lives to preserving America’s freedom,” said Attorney General Jason Miyares. “Growing up and living in a military community, I have the utmost respect and admiration for the brave men and women who have served and those currently serving in the armed forces. There is no braver or more selfless group than the United States military, and Virginia is dedicated to supporting them.”
“I am pleased with this package of bills and the services it provides to our National Guardsmen, Veterans, and their families and look forward to furthering this work in the sessions to come,” said Secretary Craig Crenshaw, Secretary of Veteran and Defense Affairs.
Additionally, reflecting on Armed Forces Day, Governor Youngkin added: “This is a great opportunity to pay tribute to these brave men and women who keep our nation safe every day. It is because of them we get the privilege of calling our Commonwealth and nation safe and free. As Governor, it is my honor to recognize our heroes by signing this Armed Forces Day Proclamation.”
Governor Youngkin Ceremonially Signed Four Day One Game Plan Bills, including:
HB 358, patroned by Delegate John McGuire, R-Goochland, and SB 572, patroned by Senator Jen Kiggans, R-Virginia Beach, which Directs the Secretary of Veterans and Defense Affairs and the Secretary of Commerce and Trade, in conjunction with the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity, to examine the waiving of fees associated with permits necessary to establish a small business for veteran-owned small businesses.
HB 994, patroned by Delegate Emily Brewer, R-Isle of Wight, and SB 529, patroned by Senator Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, which directs the Board of Education to determine the feasibility of amending its regulations to permit all active-duty members of the Armed Forces of the United States who serve as caregivers to dependents to apply for the Child Care Subsidy Program.
Governor Youngkin Ceremonially Signed 19 Additional Bills, including:
HB 17, patroned by Delegate Buddy Fowler, R-Hanover, and SB 618, patroned by Senator Richard Stewart, R-King George, exempts members of a lawfully recognized military color guard, honor guard, or similar organization and members of a veterans service organization that is congressionally chartered or officially recognized by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, when such member is participating in a training or educational exercise, funeral, or public ceremony on behalf of such military color guard, honor guard, or similar organization or veterans service organization, from the crime of unlawful paramilitary activity unless such member engages in such activity with malicious intent.
HB 40, patroned by Delegate Phillip Scott, R-Spotsylvania, authorizes a disabled veteran’s special license plate issued to a disabled veteran to be transferred, upon his death, to his un-remarried surviving spouse.
HB 120, patroned by Delegate Scott Wyatt, R-Hanover, authorizes resident veterans who have a service-connected disability of at least 30 percent to receive from the Department of Wildlife Resources, at no cost or a reduced cost depending on the veteran’s disability rating, a lifetime license to hunt and freshwater fish.
HB 210, patroned by Delegate Emily Brewer, R-Isle of Wight, and SB 256, patroned by Senator John Bell, D-Loudon, which authorizes the Department of Military Affairs to utilize grant funding to recruit qualified applicants for service in the Virginia National Guard.
HB 230, patroned by Delegate Carrie Coyner, R-Chesterfield, and SB 154, patroned by Senator Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, requires the Board of Education’s licensure regulations to provide for licensure by reciprocity for any spouse of active-duty or reserve member of the Armed Forces of the United States or a member of the Virginia National Guard who has obtained a valid out-of-state license, with full credentials and without deficiencies, that is in force at the time the application for a Virginia license is received by the Department of Education.
HB 231, patroned by Delegate Bobby Orrock, R-Caroline, increases, from 15 to 21 days, the number of days a member of the armed services, reserves, National Guard, Virginia Defense Force, or National Defense Executive Reserve shall be entitled to paid leave for military duties.
HB 354, patroned by Delegate Anne Ferrell Tata, R-Virginia Beach, and SB 315, patroned by Senator Lionell Spruill, D-Northern Chesapeake, which establishes the Virginia Military Community Infrastructure Grant Fund to support military communities in the Commonwealth by awarding grants to aid the planning and design, construction, or completion of infrastructure projects that enhance military readiness, installation resiliency, or quality of life for military communities.
HB 642, patroned by Delegate Betsy Carr, D-Richmond City, and SB 719, patroned by Senator John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, provides that the Department of Military Affairs shall have the power to pay the employer portion of health care premiums for any member of the Virginia National Guard or Virginia Defense Force when certain circumstances are met.
HB 857, patroned by Delegate David Reid, D-Loudon, and SB 71, patroned by Senator Frank Ruff, R-Mecklenburg, adds parameters around grants distributed by the Department of Military Affairs to members of the Virginia National Guard who are enrolled in any course or program at any public institution of higher education or accredited nonprofit private institution of higher education.
HB 957, patroned by Delegate Kathy Tran, D-Fairfax County, provides that beginning with the taxable year 2022, any locality may declare real property owned by a surviving spouse of a member of the Armed Forces of the United States who died in the line of duty with a line of duty determination from the U.S. Department of Defense, where such death was not the result of criminal conduct, and where the spouse occupies the real property as his principal place of residence and does not remarry, a separate class of property for local taxation of real property that may be taxed at a different rate than that imposed on the general class of real property, provided that the rate of tax is greater than zero and does not exceed the rate of tax on the general class of real property.
HB 1203, patroned by Delegate Anne Ferrell Tata, R-Virginia Beach, establishes the position of Suicide Prevention Coordinator in the Department of Veterans Services to support and closely coordinate effective mental health care services for military service members and veterans and their families.
SB 212, patroned by Senator Jen Kiggans, R-Virginia Beach, authorizes the issuance of revenue-sharing special license plates with a design that incorporates the emblem of the United States Navy to active members and certain veterans of the United States Navy.
SB 768, patroned by Senator Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, amends the definition of “qualified survivors and dependents” under the Virginia Military Survivors and Dependents Education Program to include that a child who is a stepchild of a deceased military service member shall receive all program benefits if the military service member claimed the stepchild on his tax return or on his Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System while serving on active duty.
What they’re saying on Youngkin’s Education Plan to raise standards, improve transparency, and empower parents and teachers
Governor Youngkin released the Department of Education report on May 19, 2022: Our Commitment To Virginians: High Expectations and Excellence For All Students. Leaders across the country sounded off on the findings in the report.
Commonwealth Executive Leadership
“We have wised up to the dangerous rhetoric others use to divide us when all parents want to do is decide where their children should go to school. The data is clear: our children are not learning and this is a national security crisis.” -Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears (former Vice President of the Virginia Board of Education)
“As the son of an immigrant from a socialist country, I understand the importance of an education that fosters free speech, independent thinking, and creates an environment where every child has the opportunity to pursue their dreams. The recommendations contained in this report will ensure our K-12 education system supports and prepares every child for success and empowers both parents and teachers.” -Attorney General Jason Miyares
“We can’t get back to having the best education unless we have the cooperation of everybody from the school superintendent, the school boards, and parent-teacher associations. I love what Governor Youngkin said, he is giving parents back the right opportunity to speak. I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t believe in Governor Youngkin.” -Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder (1990-1994)
“A free high quality education is what the Virginia Constitution guarantees to the young people of the Commonwealth. It is the gift that creates equal access to the American Dream. Today Governor Glenn Youngkin and Education Secretary Amy Guidera presented a comprehensive, data analytics driven critique our current ability to deliver on that guarantee. The incontrovertible measurements show we are falling woefully short on both the expectations and performance. The governor and his team have set a seven-prong vision for correcting this systemic problem. His powerful combination of setting high expectations, empowering parents and teachers, demanding innovation and transparency, and evaluating individual student job and career readiness, will provide a new day of achievement for young Virginians. I thank Governor Youngkin for his servant leadership and relentless pursuit of providing the very best education for the future leaders of Virginia and America.” – Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (2010 – 2014)
Leaders Across the Commonwealth
“While Petersburg is just miles away from Richmond, sometimes we feel like we are a world away given our challenges as a school division and community. I am grateful that the commitments made by state officials and the VDOE will shine a light on our students who do not always have the same access to opportunities in school as other students in Virginia.” – Superintendent of Petersburg City Public Schools Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin
“There is a misconception that superintendents and school systems don’t want data about student performance. This is not true. Now, more than ever, this information is critical in our plans to accelerate learning after the pandemic. As Superintendent of Stafford County Public Schools, I rely on honest data to best serve more than 30,000 learners and more than 4,000 educators. Diminished data transparency makes my job harder. I am encouraged by efforts to recommit to high standards and excellence, and I look forward to working in partnership with our community and my colleagues across the Commonwealth as we prepare every learner for work and life.” – Superintendent of Stafford County Public Schools Thomas Taylor
“The report released today emphasizes high expectations as we continue to support students, parents, and educators. And as we support our students, we must acknowledge that each one is unique and learns differently. That is why we must continue to evaluate our methods, recognize the growth our students make, and celebrate their achievements. At Louisa County Public Schools, I am surrounded by an incredible team of educators who inspire me with their determination, innovation, hard work, and positivity. I am confident that in Louisa County and across Virginia, educators, students, parents, and communities will continue to work diligently together to ensure that Virginia schools become the model for what public education should look like nationwide.” – Superintendent of Louisa County Public Schools Doug Straley
“Virginia is for lovers of liberty, learning, and opportunity. However, not all Virginians receive the quality education they deserve and that taxpayers should expect. To make matters worse, too many students we label as proficient will become frustrated when they have to face the brutal truth that we underprepared them for competitive jobs, salaries, and entrepreneurial endeavors. Thus, Virginia must also be for lovers of academic transparency. This report, sobering as it is, is a first step on a pathway towards a brighter future for all children and adult learners.”- Virginia Secretary of Education Gerard Robinson (2010-2011)
“When Virginia focuses on rigorous academic standards and provides support for meeting those standards, our students, teachers, principals, and administrators rise to meet the challenge. I am confident Virginia will regain its national ranking in education when students, educators, and schools are held accountable for achieving high standards and parents are included in policy decisions involving their children. Historically, the pendulum on educational policy tends to swing when student achievement spirals downward. Achievement data in Virginia suggests it is time to reverse the pendulum. Our students deserve no less.”- Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Patricia I. Wright (2008-2014)
“This report opens the door for an honest and long-overdue discussion on what is reasonable and appropriate regarding testing and accountability at the local and state level. Historically, this has not been a partisan issue, and it should not be today. There are no easy solutions. Success has always depended on bringing people together to understand these issues and to agree on the appropriate path. In the past, Virginia was recognized nationally as a leader in student achievement and progress. Unfortunately, over the past decade, we’ve gone backwards. This is painfully clear in the data from every state and national measure of student progress and achievement. This report is a good first step for Governor Youngkin and his administration to provide critical leadership to help Virginia’s students, parents and educators. The state Board of Education, school division leaders, and other stakeholders have a golden opportunity for conversations that can address important needs and refocus state policy on students and their readiness for today’s world.” -President of the Virginia Board of Education Dr. Kirk T. Schroder (1998-2002)
“There is no path to a more inclusive Virginia that doesn’t involve dramatic improvements to our education system. This report pulls back the curtain to lay bare just how far we have to go to provide a consistently high standard of excellence for all students across the commonwealth – especially for low-income, Black, and Hispanic students. It’s uncomfortable but vital reading for all Virginians and tees up a long-overdue conversation about our schools that should be bipartisan, forward-looking, and solution-oriented.” – Member of the Virginia Board of Education Andrew Rotherham (2005-2009), Co-Founder and Partner of Bellwether Education
“The Commonwealth of Virginia is known for having a well-trained and highly educated workforce. Our economy requires a strong educational system to assist every individual. This report identifies challenges in our K-12 system. The Virginia Chamber of Commerce looks forward to partnering with Governor Youngkin and Secretary Guidera to address the challenges pointed out by this report.” – President of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce Barry DuVal
“At Virginia Learns we envision a day when all Virginia students receive an education that prepares them for the world and workforce, including learning experiences and environments that empower them to thrive in childhood and become positive contributors in their communities. To achieve this we share Superintendent Balow’s commitment that we must all work together to ensure high expectations and excellence for all learners. Our pledge is to bring together business and education leaders around these shared interests in education and a common agenda to modernize Virginia public schools so that all students gain the knowledge, durable skills, and experiences to be successful now and in the future. All children, regardless of where they live, deserve this from the adults and the data are clear that the most effective way to ensure this occurs is by giving educators the respect and support they need and deserve.”- President and CEO of Virginia Learns Robert Nomberg
Leaders Across the Nation
“This report and detailed gameplan is spot on. The starting point must be honesty about where we stand, and not brushing under the rug the seriousness of the learning loss our kids have suffered. Governor Youngkin’s call for full transparency with parents, aggressive interventions when needed, and higher standards throughout are exactly where all Governors should be leading their states. I especially salute the call for unbiased, robust history and civics education and to support teachers with the training they need. With its high standards, vision, and thoughtfulness, it is reminiscent of other great Virginians–the founders of our Great Republic.” -U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. William J. Bennett (1985-1988)
“The Youngkin Administration’s students-first approach to education is a welcomed change, not only for our students and families, but for our state’s economic future. By prioritizing parental control, college and career readiness, early literacy, and ensuring the education system is held accountable, all of our students will have an opportunity to flourish throughout their K-12 journey. I applaud the Governor and his Administration for prioritizing education and releasing this important plan.”-U.S. House Majority Leader (2011-2014) and U.S. Representative Eric Cantor (2001-2014)
“Governor Glenn Youngkin’s education plan lays out an important agenda that serves the interests of all Virginia students by empowering parents, focusing on early literacy, improving college and career pathways, setting high expectations, and making Virginia’s education system more transparent and accountable to parents.” -Florida Governor Jeb Bush (1999-2007)
“The extent of learning losses in Virginia during the pandemic, and their disproportionate impact on more vulnerable groups, are hugely concerning. A commitment to remedying these differential losses is extremely important for children.” -Brown University Economics Professor Dr. Emily Oster
“Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s education plan lays a foundation for improvement by focusing on the fundamentals: Putting students first, providing families with microgrants, raising expectations, strengthened accountability measures, and implementing the recently passed Virginia Literacy Act. ExcelinEd looks forward to working with the Administration’s efforts to make this vision and plan a reality for the benefit of Virginia’s students.” -CEO of the Foundation for Excellence in Education Patricia Levesque
Youngkin Administration to raise standards, improve transparency, and empower parents and teachers
On May 19, 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin received the Department of Education’s report “Our Commitment to Virginians: High Expectations and Excellence for All Students.” The education report builds upon Governor Youngkin’s direction in Executive Order One, issued on his first day in office. The Governor affirmed his guiding principles to address troubling data trends and outlined policy recommendations to restore excellence in education in Virginia.
“Virginia’s public schools have long enjoyed a reputation for academic excellence,” said Governor Youngkin. “But the data in this report demonstrate that Virginia’s student achievement gaps are disturbing and cannot be ignored. This report documents a clear and sobering lesson on the consequences for students when state leaders lower academic standards and dismantle accountability.”
The 33-page report from the Department of Education details how state policy choices and priorities over the last decade have resulted in lower student achievement in reading and mathematics, wider achievement gaps, reduced transparency, and eroding parent confidence in the Commonwealth’s public schools.
“Virginians deserve to know the truth about how our children are doing,” said Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera. “Under Governor Youngkin’s leadership, we aim to be the most transparent and accountable state in the nation while empowering parents and teachers with the knowledge and choices to do what’s best for each learner.”
Key findings in the report include the following:
• Virginia now has the lowest proficiency standards in reading and mathematics in the nation, resulting in the wide “honesty gaps” between the performance of students on state Standards of Learning tests and performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
• Despite statistically significant declines in the reading performance of Virginia students on the 2019 NAEP and on state assessments, the Board of Education voted in 2020 to lower the proficiency standard on all elementary, middle school, and high school SOL reading tests.
• The Board of Education’s Standards of Accreditation — once an accountability model for other states — now de-emphasize grade-level proficiency in reading and mathematics and mask wide achievement gaps.
• Pre-pandemic results from college entrance examinations taken by 2019 Virginia high graduates show wide disparities in college readiness, especially in mathematics.
• Last fall, 42% of Virginia second-graders scored below the benchmark on the Commonwealth’s early literacy screening assessment.
• Homeschooling increased by 56% in 2020-2021 as the parents of 59,638 school-age children chose not to send their children to public schools. Despite the return to in-person instruction this year, the parents of 55,769 students chose homeschooling over enrolling their children in a public school. In addition, 5,828 students have transferred from Virginia public schools to in-state private schools since the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year.
“I want to stress that this report is not an indictment of our teachers, principals, and other school leaders. They have worked tirelessly over the last few years under extraordinary conditions and circumstances,” said Superintendent Jillian Balow. “But local decision-making inevitably reflects priorities and policy choices determined at the state level. I am committed to working with Governor Youngkin, the state Board of Education, and the General Assembly to reorder Virginia’s K-12 priorities, raise expectations for all of our students, and create an accreditation system that is transparent, honest, and prioritizes grade-level proficiency.”
The report also identifies Governor Youngkin’s guiding principles in education that will guide the work of his Administration in restoring excellence in education:
• Establish and maintain high expectations for students, schools, and ourselves.
• Advance parent and teacher empowerment to best serve students in partnership.
• Demand zero-tolerance for discrimination in education and beyond.
• Foster innovation in all education environments.
• Provide transparency and accountability so that each child is seen and receives what they need to succeed.
• Ensure post-secondary readiness so that all learners can succeed in life.
• Protect and nurture freedom of speech and inquiry to ensure every student is taught how to think, not what to think.
“The future prosperity of our Commonwealth depends on how well we prepare our students,” said Governor Youngkin. “Working alongside parents, teachers, and policymakers, we will restore excellence in education and ensure that all students have access to quality education opportunities that prepare them for success in our workplaces, our communities, and our democracy.”
The complete “Our Commitment to Virginians: High Expectations and Excellence for All Students” report is available here. Superintendent Balow’s presentation deck is available here.