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Governor Northam proposes budget with unprecedented investments in working Virginians



On December 16, 2021, Governor Ralph Northam proposed his biennial budget for 2022-2024. The proposed budget is a reflection of Governor Northam’s historic progressive leadership as the most economically successful governor in Virginia’s history. In the past four years, Virginia has generated record economic growth, with $80 billion in capital investment, and created more than 100 thousand new jobs. Under Governor Northam, Virginia generated a $2.6 billion surplus—the largest in the Commonwealth’s history.

This record economic growth and fiscal responsibility have allowed Governor Northam to build on the priorities of his last four budgets: education, equity, and investments in working Virginians.

The Governor’s proposed budget sets the incoming administration up for success in virtually every facet of state government: education, the environment, broadband, behavioral health, public safety, and economic development. Governor Northam noted that Virginia is stronger and more forward-looking as a result of the last four years—and his budget is a roadmap to continue this success.

“Over these four years, we have steered this state in a prudent manner, invested wisely for our long-term needs, and created more opportunities for our communities and our people to thrive,” said Governor Northam. “I am confident that this state is stronger and more forward-looking than it was when I took office nearly four years ago. This budget is a roadmap to continue Virginia’s success.”

The Governor’s remarks as prepared for delivery are below and the key highlights of the Governor’s budget amendments can be found here.

Good morning. Chairman Torian, Chairwoman Howell, Chairwoman Watts, Speaker
Filler-Corn, members of the General Assembly, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for the privilege of speaking with you this morning.

I would like to recognize Attorney General Mark Herring, my wife Pam, and members of our Cabinet and staff.

And I want to welcome Lieutenant Governor-elect Winsome Sears and Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin.

I invited the incoming administration today because once the campaigns are over, we all should work together to help Virginia succeed. I want to thank our Department of Elections, all of our local registrars, and the thousands of volunteers who all work to make our elections run smoothly.

We had a nearly-flawless election of Governor-elect Youngkin this year, just as we did last year when Virginia voted for President Joe Biden. Our elections are always well-run, they’re free and fair, and they’re transparent. This is a hallmark of our democracy, and I am proud of all Virginians whose efforts help ensure that our elections go well.

We saw record turnout last month—and that’s a direct result of our work to make it easier to vote in the Commonwealth.

So Governor-elect, welcome. I want you and your administration to be successful, because if you are, Virginia will continue to be successful.

It’s good to be gathered here together today. I’m glad that I can deliver my last budget speech to you all in person.

When we first met here, I was not quite a year into my term. Back then, a four-year term seemed like a long time.

But those years have gone by very fast. And today I present to you my last budget. I’m biased, but I also think it’s our best one yet.

That’s because Virginia’s economy is doing very well. State revenues are at record levels. And we are at a unique moment when we have the funding to catch up on long-delayed investments, while also putting money back into the pockets of the hardest working Virginians.

We need to be clear about how this has happened. It is because, over these four years, we have consistently taken a prudent, cautious approach to budgeting.

We have strengthened our balance sheet to keep our finances stable. We’ve made
targeted long-term investments to help Virginia grow. And we’ve made choices that ensure more opportunities for more Virginians.

In 2018 I spoke to you about strengthening our balance sheet, making historic investments, positioning Virginia for potential future downturns, and targeted tax relief.

I am glad to see that despite everything that has happened over these four years, our priorities really haven’t changed.

We still want to take care of our neighbors. We still want to make sure Virginia has money put away for a rainy day.

We still want to strengthen this Commonwealth in every way possible, by making investments that will help us in the long run. We still want to do the most good possible with the resources we have. We have kept the promises we made four years ago.

When I presented our budget in 2018, I told you our economy was headed in the right direction.

And while we’ve had some ups and downs—particularly in the early months of the pandemic—I can confidently say that our economy today is the strongest we’ve seen in a very long time.

We ended the last fiscal year with the largest surplus in the Commonwealth’s history.

And while we’ve benefitted from federal pandemic funding, please don’t fall into the trap of believing that’s the reason for the surplus. Pandemic funding is one-time—revenues are ongoing. And those booming revenues show us that the things we’ve been doing these four years are working.

We’ve made targeted investments for the future, helped people get through the pandemic, and put money aside as a buffer for the future. This is possible because of strong, steady fiscal stewardship.

We have built a strong Commonwealth that works for more Virginians than ever before.

The budget I propose to you today will leave a roadmap to continue the strong economic success that we are seeing. We will keep making the investments that Virginia needs, and we will keep putting resources into supporting Virginians who need it.

First, we have built this budget as we have every budget—with Virginia’s long-term fiscal stability in mind.

When I started this job, Virginia was on a negative credit watch. My goal was to get our credit back on the positive side of the ledger and to set aside the equivalent of 8 percent of our budget in reserves. That goal would have meant we had more in reserves than any previous governor, of either party.

Well, we did that, and much more. I’m happy to say that our AAA rating is safe and sound, and this budget puts $1.1 billion in our Revenue Stabilization Fund. We’ve also added a voluntary deposit, another $564 million. Because when you’re doing well, the first thing any financial advisor will tell you to do is put money in the bank.

Altogether, this brings our reserves to more than $3.8 billion. That’s 16.8 percent, more than double the 8 percent I set as a goal four years ago. I am proud that even as we weathered the worst pandemic in our lifetime, we’ve rebuilt our reserves so that Virginia is prepared against future downturns.

That financial advisor would also tell you that when you have a surplus in cash, it makes sense to pay down some bills. So this budget sets aside nearly $1 billion for the Virginia Retirement System. This will reduce unfunded liabilities, making sure we can meet our retirement obligations for thousands of state employees, folks like social workers, and road crews.

And it also commits $42.5 million each year for the payments we expect to make under our deal with Amazon—payments that are contingent on them meeting their promises on investments and job creation.

And, finally, the financial advisor would tell us that if we want to make long-needed renovations to the house, it makes more sense to use cash than credit. So we’re budgeting $2 billion for capital projects, including maintenance needs in state government and higher education buildings. And we’ve also got to protect our house—so this budget includes over $60 million for cybersecurity upgrades across state government.

All of these actions mean that Virginia will have more tools in the toolbox next time there’s an economic downturn—because we planned ahead today. That means our historic investments won’t disappear when the next downturn comes.

Strong revenue years, like this one, are the right time to make strategic, long-term investments. That’s true whether the investment is in asphalt and concrete, or the people who truly make up this state government.

And we want to invest in people.

That’s why our budget includes pay raises for the people who make public services run.

For teachers, we’re proposing a 10 percent raise—five percent in each of the next two years. With local matching funds, Virginia teacher pay will finally meet the national
average—and that’s good news.

This is the right way to say thank you to our teachers for all they do every day—especially for all they have done during this long pandemic.

I am proud that every budget I proposed as governor included a pay boost for teachers—including the largest single-year raise in 15 years, in 2018. There is power in every child—teachers give a child the tools to unlock that power. They go above and beyond every day, and these raises are one way to show our gratitude.

I’m also proposing pay raises for law enforcement officers and corrections officers. For years they have faced what we call “pay compression”—when we raise starting salaries, it means junior officers start earning almost as much as senior officers. The structure we’ve proposed raises both starting salaries and those of officers with more experience. Law enforcement is not an easy job—officers put themselves at risk every day, and they deserve to be better compensated for it.

And finally, I’m proposing a 10 percent pay raise for all state employees—five percent in each of the next two budget years. Our state workforce is what makes the government run. They are the service in public service. None of the services we all rely on – from fixing roads to keeping state parks open to the public health services we’ve needed so much these past 20 months—none of that would happen without state employees, and this is a way to thank them for their hard work.

The pandemic affected many state services—and in some cases, put a spotlight on longstanding problems.

It put additional strain on our already-challenged behavioral health system, as our state and community systems—and the people who provide those services—struggled to provide care during the pandemic.

In July, I committed to using millions of dollars from the American Rescue Plan to alleviate pressure in state hospitals, boost community services, and provide greater support for substance abuse treatment and prevention efforts.

We also put ARPA funding toward staff bonuses, and we committed to staff salary raises to better compensate the people who do this tough job.

Today, I’m announcing this budget includes $560 million to address our behavioral health challenges, on a variety of fronts.

We’re proposing $164 million to give pay raises to direct care staff in our state hospitals and training centers, along with discharge assistance.

We’ll also provide $263 million for community-based services. This includes fully funding STEP VA services at our community services boards, enhancing crisis services, and expanding permanent supportive housing.

I’m budgeting $75 million for new behavioral health care standards in jails, and to increase the number of counselors in the Department of Corrections.

And we’ll provide $33 million to expand access to community-based addiction treatment—something that we need now more than ever, unfortunately.

We’ll also boost services for developmental disabilities, with a historic $675 million to strengthen community-based services and allow more people to be eligible for Medicaid waiver services. This includes revising rates to providers for the first time since 2016 and adding 1,200 new waiver slots for community services.

Every state is facing the long-term challenge of behavioral health, and how to best provide treatment. These issues, especially in our state hospitals, are challenging and have been building for a long time. This funding package will help ease the strains on the system while compensating our hardworking staff, and providing additional community support for the patients who need and deserve help and treatment.

We are unfortunately living at a time when a variety of health issues are pressing enough to be considered public health emergencies.

One of those is the persistent crisis of gun violence in our communities.

Every year, we lose more than a thousand Virginians to gun violence. That’s more than three Virginians every day, in communities across the Commonwealth.

Whether those deaths are homicides, suicides, or accidents, every one of them is a tragedy. Every one of them is a family that will never be the same.

I am proud to have passed comprehensive gun safety measures in 2020. But there are still important gaps in our knowledge about the problem, and how to prevent it.

That’s why my budget provides $27 million to establish and staff the Virginia Center for Firearm Violence Intervention and Prevention.

This center will collect and report data on firearm violence in all its forms. It will provide resources and support to localities and community-based organizations that are addressing firearm violence, and it will coordinate state and local responses to such violence. The center will collaborate across both public health and public safety state agencies, so we can address this crisis in a data-driven way.

Our revenues allow us to make investments we’ve needed for a long time. And one problem that has festered in Virginia for decades is the issue of crumbling schools—schools with leaky roofs and ceilings, and antiquated classrooms. It’s hard for children to learn when the school itself is distracting.

Many school divisions have old schools, and not enough money to build new ones. But school construction has traditionally been a local responsibility, not a state one.

While I understand the reasons for that, I believe that when we have the means to help, we should.

So my budget includes $500 million to help localities construct or renovate school buildings. This isn’t the first time we’ve proposed school construction loans – in fact, we proposed it through the Literary Fund in 2018. But this is the most we’ve ever proposed to help ensure students have a healthy and safe learning environment.

Overall, we’re proposing more than $2.3 billion in direct aid for education.

We’ll also increase support for at-risk students by more than $268 million. In 2019, we proposed investing $140 million to support high-poverty school divisions—the most we had ever been able to give to support at-risk students.

This investment nearly doubles that, helping schools offer additional support to students who need it.

Every child, no matter who they are or where they live, should get a world-class education in Virginia.

And that education should start as young as possible. Early education has been a priority of mine, and of the First Lady’s, throughout my term in office. This budget expands access to the Virginia Preschool Initiative for three-year-olds and increases the Child Care Development Fund by more than $73 million each year.

It also expands the early reading initiative, investing more than $77 million over the two years. I want to thank Pam and all the dedicated people across government and around Virginia who have worked to make early learning more available and accessible to all of our children.

We’re also making important investments in safe, affordable housing. We’ve increased our support for the Housing Trust Fund in past budgets, and we’re able to do it again. I am proposing $190 million over the two years to create more housing that is safe and stable, and that people can afford.

When I came into office, we were putting just $11 million in the Housing Trust Fund. Our administration has made historic investments—$145 million so far. The importance of affordable housing, as well as supportive housing, has been even more evident during this pandemic.

You can’t tell people they’re safer staying home if they don’t have a home to stay in. That’s why these housing investments are so important, and I’m proud that we’ve been able to increase this funding during my term.

One of the most important investments we have been able to make is in broadband coverage.

Broadband is to today’s economy what electricity was generations ago. It is quite simply a necessary service for students to connect to education, businesses to connect to the wider world, and citizens to connect to work. It helps make economic opportunity more equitable.

But when I came into office, we were spending $4 million a year on connecting the thousands of Virginians that still lacked broadband access.

We bumped that up to $50 million a year. And earlier this year, we made the decision to put $700 million in federal pandemic funding into broadband. When we leverage local and private funding, Virginia is deploying $2 billion into broadband and high-speed internet.

Because of this decision, earlier this week we were able to award grant projects to dozens of communities—projects that will close 90 percent of the digital divide. We’re on track to have universal broadband on its way to every community by 2024—far faster than expected, and faster than most other states.

That funding is built into the base of this budget, and it’s vital to Virginia’s economic health that we keep this project moving forward. This is an infrastructure investment that will help Virginians for years to come.

Last week, I announced additional funding for our state parks and multi-use trail systems.

We’re also making investments in other environmental priorities—especially those that help ensure clean water and protect land for future generations.

I am proud to say that with this budget, we have put $1 billion toward our efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

That is more than any other governor has ever been able to invest in the Bay. As someone who grew up with the Bay as my backyard, this is personal to me—I want to ensure that my grandchildren, and your grandchildren, can enjoy beautiful, clean water the same way I did.

This money will go to a variety of programs that make our water cleaner—reducing nutrient runoff, conserving forest and farmland, fully funding the BMP cost-share, and helping localities update old sewer systems.

It will help us meet our statewide goals for Bay cleanup by 2025. We must meet those
obligations. The Bay touches so many states that cleaning it up is a group project, and we do not want Virginia to be the state that doesn’t carry its share.

As part of this effort, we’re also providing funding for the cities of Richmond, Lynchburg, and Alexandria, to improve their wastewater systems, through what we call combined sewer overflow projects. Their CSO projects will deliver cleaner water for everyone.

That’s why we’re using federal ARPA dollars for those projects. When we announced how we’d use that funding earlier this year, we purposely set some aside for other needs. This is an excellent way to use those resources to solve a decades-old health problem.

We also are taking steps to protect land and cultural sites that are important to Virginia’s tribal nations, Black Virginians, and other Virginians of color.

As we strive to tell a fuller and more inclusive story of Virginia, it’s important to preserve and protect physical places and spaces that represent the history of all Virginians.

We’ll set aside $12 million to help Virginia’s tribal nations conserve and expand their tribal lands for future generations—something we’ve already started on, with actions in recent years to protect land for the Chickahominy and Mattaponi tribes. We’ve also budgeted $10 million to preserve historic sites related to Black and indigenous Virginians.

Clean air and water are important legacies to leave for future generations. And it’s important to prepare our Commonwealth for the climate changes that are having an impact now.

I’m so proud of the work we’ve done to make this state more resilient. And the country is once again turning to Virginia for leadership. In fact, President Biden has nominated Admiral Ann Phillips, our special assistant for coastal adaptation, to serve as the next U.S. Maritime Administrator. Admiral Phillips is in the midst of her confirmation hearing as we speak. I know she will serve the United States as well as she served our Commonwealth.

I am incredibly proud that during my term, we have brought in a record $80 billion in economic investment, creating more than 100,000 new jobs. And CNBC has named Virginia the best state for business three years running—proof that when you treat people right, it’s the right thing to do, and it’s good for business.

CNBC uses more than 70 different metrics to score that ranking, about half of which touch on the business and tax climate. Both Republican and Democratic governors compete for this ranking—and we’re the only state to get it in successive years. For comparison, we’re in company with states like Texas, Georgia, and North Carolina—not exactly liberal hotbeds.

I want to thank the Commerce and Trade team, everyone at the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, and our local economic development officials, all of whom work hard to showcase all that Virginia can offer to companies.

And I thank the MEI team, which includes several of you legislators. We’ve brought thoughtful projects to you, and we’ve been able to help them succeed.

But we can do more—specifically to attract large manufacturing projects and others who need large sites prepared and ready to go. We’ve been losing projects, along with their jobs and capital investments, that are looking for this specific kind of site.

So I’m proposing $150 million to address this issue. The majority, $100 million, will establish a mega-site development fund, which will prepare our largest sites for future mega projects. These are the kinds of projects that represent thousands of potential jobs, and billions in capital investment.

The remaining $50 million will be used for midsized sites that are priorities for our economic development programs around the Commonwealth. Together, this investment will make our communities as competitive as possible, and help ensure that every region of Virginia can participate in this economic growth.

Our strong economic development track record, and being the best state for business, aren’t things that happen in a vacuum.

They happen because we have put the pieces in place to make them happen. Our
inclusive, commonsense policies have encouraged business investment. Being named the best state for business is a testament to our workforce, our education system, our commitment to diversity, and our strong business climate. And it shows that when you treat people right, good things happen.

Because of this investment, Mr. Youngkin, you will one day find yourself in a rural community to cut the ribbon on a mega-site during your term.

And because of this, I also expect to see Virginia as the best state for business for the fourth year in a row.

We got good marks with CNBC for our education system, including our world-class colleges and universities. These days, if you want to get a good job and get ahead, you need additional skills training or education beyond a high school diploma. I’m proud that in Virginia, we have everything from training focused on skills, to outstanding advanced degree programs.

But we can’t rest on our laurels in higher education.

Last week, I announced additional funding for our historically black colleges and universities. They’ve long been underfunded, which is why we have increased funding for them in every budget I have proposed.

We have budgeted support for capital improvements, and for student access.

Our schools are not serving their purpose if students can’t afford to go there—especially the first-generation students, for whom college can make a huge difference.

My budget adds $40 million over two years for Norfolk State University and Virginia State University for affordable access.

We also include $20 million over two years to help support scholarships at Virginia Union, and at Hampton University.

And we’ve budgeted for capital improvements, student support, and other needs—$297 million altogether. With these investments, we’ll have put half a billion dollars into HBCUs during my term, an increase of 87 percent.

We also know that student access is an issue at every school, public and private, HBCU or not.

That’s why we’re increasing tuition assistance for students in other ways. This budget provides $150 million to increase undergraduate financial assistance at our schools and $10 million to increase graduate financial aid. We’re providing $97 million for affordable access programs.

And we’re raising the level of Tuition Assistance Grants to students at private colleges and universities to $5,000 per student over the next two years.

That means that over my term, we’ll have increased TAG by 50 percent.

This year, roughly 23,000 Virginia students are being helped by the TAG program.

That’s no small number of students who might have been able to get an education because of this assistance.

Our private colleges do an outstanding job of helping students who might not have thought they could afford a private college—or afford to go to college at all.

In fact, here is a remarkable statistic about Virginia’s private colleges—of our student body attending Virginia’s private colleges, more than 44 percent of the student body is eligible for Pell grants, with many of our colleges exceeding 55 percent.

It takes a village, as they say, and these colleges are committed to access to higher education for all, and I thank them.

Not every student wants or needs a four-year degree to get a good job. There are many high-paying jobs that don’t require four years of school, but they do require training programs

We have excellent community colleges.

When I ran for governor, I campaigned on an idea to make community college tuition-free for low and moderate-income students, if they were getting training in high-need areas.

Last year we were finally able to keep that promise and fund the G3 program. It covers the cost of school for qualifying students—and it helps pay for other needs, like transportation and child care, that can prevent someone from getting the education they need.

This budget puts another $38 million into G3. It is a critical program to help Virginians get the training they need for the jobs they want.

We’ll also put more than $11 million into UVA-Wise to help expand programs, particularly those focused on economic development. UVA-Wise is doing great things in Southwest Virginia to help the region’s economy grow and diversify.

And at my own alma mater, VMI, we’ll provide nearly $12 million to implement the One Corps, One VMI steps to a more inclusive and supportive campus.

Our strong economy is making a lot of these budget investments possible. But it’s important to remember that these past two years have not treated everyone the

If you’re a white-collar professional, your work probably moved online, and you made it through the pandemic pretty well.

But workers whose jobs require close contact have had a rougher time. Some jobs simply can’t move online—restaurant workers, teachers, law enforcement, home care
attendants, and many, many others.

Many of these folks are still struggling.

And for years, we’ve seen the gap between the wealthiest Americans, and the least wealthy ones, widen.

In 2017, when I ran for governor, I campaigned on a promise to reduce taxes for the Virginians who need it most.

And one of the tax cuts I proposed in 2017 was that we eliminate the sales tax on groceries.

]In Virginia, we’ve applied the sales tax to groceries since 1966—the year the Commonwealth first established a sales tax.

Since that time, Virginia has reduced the state portion to 1.5 percent—plus a one percent local sales tax.

We’ve gone from being on a credit watch when I took office, to having a record surplus.

So the time has come. I am sending you a budget that will finally eliminate the 1.5 percent state sales tax on groceries.

This will help working families in every corner of Virginia and keep a promise I made on the campaign trail.

In 2018, I also proposed giving working families a tax cut. The federal government had made tax changes to help wealthy people, but it did little for everyone else. I wanted to make sure everyday Virginians benefitted too, so we proposed making Virginia’s earned income tax credit refundable.

This is the right thing to do, and it’s a policy that was first created by President Richard Nixon.

My budget makes up to 15 percent of the earned income tax credit refundable for eligible families, which will give a tax break to working families who need it the most.

And just like we did in 2019, we’re going to offer one-time tax rebates to Virginians—$250 for individuals, $500 for married couples. We did this in 2019 because the revenues were good. This year, revenues are great. We want to offer some help to Virginians who could most use it.

I’m also proposing to finally eliminate the accelerated sales tax, a budgeting move that required retailers to pre-pay a portion of their sales tax.

Now, let’s be straight with each other. We know that Virginia is going to cut taxes in 2022. I want to make sure that happens in the right way. And what I mean by that is that tax relief needs to be focused on those who need it most—workers who have lower-incomes, workers who have struggled in this pandemic. Workers who need it, not just those who want it.

My plan focuses on tax relief in the right way, helping keep a few more dollars in the pockets of working families.

When we met four years ago, we could not have predicted the biggest challenge looming ahead—the biggest, I think, that any of us have ever faced. The covid-19 pandemic.

It has touched every facet of our lives. And it has made almost everything more difficult.

But a year ago, we had the first ray of hope. The first vaccines were being authorized by the FDA. And by the end of December 2020, shots were going into arms.

Now, a year later, 87 percent of our adult population has had at least one shot. Virginia has been in or near the top ten states for vaccination rates—doing better than many other large states and all of our southern neighbors. Vaccines, paired with masking and people continuing to be cautious, have helped keep our covid numbers per capita among the nation’s lowest.

I am incredibly proud of how we have handled Covid – following the science, and always taking actions based on protecting Virginians’ health and safety.

But unfortunately, people are still dying—more than 15,000 Virginians have died of covid. Every day, I get an email with the previous day’s numbers. Consistently, somewhere between 20 and 40 Virginians die every day from this virus. Many Virginians have lost a loved one. In the state Senate, we lost one of our own.

Now, as the omicron variant spreads, we cannot say with certainty what we face next, from a health perspective or an economic one.

We have been grateful for federal funding over the past two years that has helped us respond to this pandemic on many different fronts.

That’s why this budget sets aside $424 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding, to address future impacts of the pandemic.

I hope that as Virginia continues to fight this virus, the same focus on science and health will continue to drive decisions. And if anyone who is listening has not been vaccinated yet—please, get the shot. It will save your life.

Four years, as I said, only seems long when you’re looking ahead—not when you’re looking back.

I am incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished in that time.

When I stood here at the end of 2018, we had already worked together for a major victory—expanding Medicaid. While we couldn’t know it back then, that decision was critically important when this pandemic hit. That decision means more than 600,000 Virginians have access to health care – access they did not have in 2018. Imagine if those 600,000 people had gone through the pandemic with no health coverage. The expansion was a good thing to do, and it has made Virginians healthier.

In 2018, we were on a negative credit watch, and I promised to get us back to a more positive footing and shore up our reserve funds.

Now we have kept that promise, and we have record amounts in our reserve funds—ensuring that Virginia is in a very good position for the next economic downturn.

Keeping that promise was a good thing to do.

In December 2018 we had just announced that Amazon would bring its HQ2 project to Virginia, bringing thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic impact. Every new job means another Virginian who can provide for their family.

Now, we have broken records for economic investment—$80 billion dollars invested in this state, four times any previous governor, creating more than 100,000 jobs. Every job created is a good thing to do.

In 2018, I said we needed to cut regressive taxes that take more out of a small paycheck than they do a large one. Today I have again proposed tax cuts and tax refunds that will help working families the most. Keeping that promise is a good thing to do.

We have accomplished the things I set out to accomplish—steering this state in a prudent manner, investing wisely for our long-term needs, and creating more opportunities for our communities and our people to thrive.

I am confident that this state is stronger and more forward-looking than it was when I took office nearly four years ago—because of the work you and our administration have done together.

With this budget, I leave you with a roadmap to continue Virginia’s success. And I am leaving you with my friendship, and my best wishes. I am confident that you will continue to steer this ship in a steady, forward direction—in a way that is open and welcoming to all, treats people right, and works to build a brighter future for every Virginian.

Thank you, and have a safe and happy holiday season.

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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 Applicants waiting for rights to be restored may check the status of an application online.

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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

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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.

Left-to-right: Stephen A. Edwards, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority, and Col. Brian P. Hallberg, Norfolk District commander, US Army Corps of Engineers. Shalanda D. Young, director of the US Office of Management and Budget, is standing in the middle. Courtesy Photos The Port of Virginia®

“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.

Left-to-right, back row: Virginia Transportation Secretary W. Shepphard “Shep” Miller III, US Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), US Rep. Elaine Luria, US Sen. Mark Warner, Shalanda D. Young, director of the US Office of Management and Budget, Jamie A. Pinkham, assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works, Virginia Sen. Louise Lucas and Virginia Del. Robert Bloxom Jr. Left-to-right, front row: Stephen A. Edwards, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority and Col. Brian P. Hallberg, Norfolk District Commander, US Army Corps of Engineers

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.)

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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.

Governor Glenn Youngkin acknowledges Dr. Bridgette Williams after signing the Armed Forces Day Proclamation at the Virginia War Memorial on Friday, May 20, 2022. Official Photo by Christian Martinez, Office of Governor Glenn Youngkin.

“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.”

A copy of the Armed Forces Day Proclamation can be found here.

Watch the full event here.

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.

Governor Glenn Youngkin and attendees after signing the Armed Forces Day Proclamation at the Virginia War Memorial on Friday, May 20, 2022. Official Photo by Christian Martinez, Office of Governor Glenn Youngkin.


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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.

Former Governor Doug Wilder speaks to Governor Glenn Youngkin after the release of Virginia’s education report in the Patrick Henry Building on Thursday, May 19, 2022. Official Photo by Christian Martinez, Office of Governor Glenn Youngkin.

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


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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.

Governor Glenn Youngkin delivers remarks after education report findings in the Patrick Henry Building on Thursday, May 19, 2022. Official Photo by Christian Martinez, Office of Governor Glenn Youngkin.

“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.

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2:00 pm Common Scents: Historic Perfume ... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Common Scents: Historic Perfume ... @ Sky Meadows State Park
May 22 @ 2:00 pm – May 23 @ 4:00 pm
Common Scents: Historic Perfume Making Workshop @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area. Have you ever wondered how to harvest the fragrance of a flower or capture the irresistible aroma of sandalwood? Then this hands-on workshop is for you! Join us and learn how people in[...]
5:00 pm Let’s Come Together @ DoubleTree by Hilton
Let’s Come Together @ DoubleTree by Hilton
May 22 @ 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm
Let's Come Together @ DoubleTree by Hilton
A Night of Prayer and Worship, All are Welcome Prayers led by Pastor John Miller of Abundant Life Church and other Local Pastors DoubleTree by Hilton 111 Hospitality Dr. Front Royal, VA Sunday, May 22[...]
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
May 25 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
8:00 pm Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
May 28 @ 8:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Astronomy for Everyone @ Sky Meadows State Park
Historic Area: Discover our International Dark-Sky Park! Our evenings begin with a half-hour children’s “Junior Astronomer” program, followed by a discussion about the importance of dark skies and light conservation. Then join NASA Jet Propulsion[...]
7:00 pm 2022 Memorial Day Community Band... @ Gazebo
2022 Memorial Day Community Band... @ Gazebo
May 30 @ 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm
2022 Memorial Day Community Band Concert @ Gazebo
2022 Memorial Day Concert by Front Royal Community Band Monday, May 30, 2022, 7pm, at the Gazebo on Main St. (sponsored by American Legion Post #53)
6:30 pm Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Jun 1 @ 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm
Front Royal Wednesday Night Bingo @ Front Royal Volunteer Fire Deptartment
Bingo to support the American Cancer Society mission, organized by Relay For Life of Front Royal. Every Wednesday evening Early Bird Bingo at 6:30 p.m. Regular Bingo from 7-9:30 p.m. Food and refreshments available More[...]
10:00 am Backcountry Crash Course: Earth ... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Backcountry Crash Course: Earth ... @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jun 4 @ 10:00 am – Jun 5 @ 11:00 am
Backcountry Crash Course: Earth Connection Series @ Sky Meadows State Park
Meet at the Overnight Parking Lot. Ready to try backcountry camping? Spend 24 hours in nature learning backcountry skills and survival techniques with professional outdoor instructor Tim MacWelch. With Sky Meadows’ Backcountry Campground as the[...]
10:00 am Clean the Bay Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Clean the Bay Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jun 4 @ 10:00 am – 1:00 pm
Clean the Bay Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Boston Mill Road Trail near the Park Office. Learn how fences and tree plantings improve water quality at Sky Meadows State Park. Stop by our Explorer Outpost table along the Boston Mill Road Trail where[...]
10:00 am National Trails Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
National Trails Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Jun 4 @ 10:00 am – Jun 5 @ 12:00 pm
National Trails Day @ Sky Meadows State Park
Meet at the intersection of Boston Mill Road Trail and Hadow Trail. Get your hands dirty as we work to improve the hiking experience on Hadow Trail. Join park trailblazers as they work to enhance[...]
11:00 am Gospel Music Festival @ Gazebo
Gospel Music Festival @ Gazebo
Jun 4 @ 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Gospel Music Festival @ Gazebo