I’m a proud product of Virginia public schools — and I’ll fight for them as governor
Putting Families and Students First — Giving Kids a Shot at Success
I grew up on the Eastern Shore during desegregation. A lot of white parents chose to send their kids to private schools rather than integrate — but not mine. My brother and I both attended and graduated from public schools. It’s one of the best things that happened to me.
After high school, I attended the Virginia Military Institute and then Eastern Virginia Medical School — both great public schools that prepared me well for my career as a physician and didn’t saddle me with a load of debt.
My wife Pam taught elementary science, and both my kids are Virginia public school graduates, too. My son Wes graduated from the College of William & Mary, and my daughter Aubrey graduated from the University of Virginia. With all the bumper stickers we’ve collected over the years, you should see the back of my Prius!
Public schools have given so much to our family — I’ve been proud to fight for them as a state senator and lieutenant governor. Some of the highlights of my political career include working with Governor McAuliffe to invest a record $1 billion in our K-12 public schools and leading the effort to win a federal grant that opened up 13,000 new spaces for our youngest Virginians to attend quality early childhood education programs
I’ve been a practicing physician for over 30 years. Every day, I get to wake up and do a job I love — it’s not something I take for granted. I want every child in our commonwealth to have that same opportunity, and the foundation for that is a quality education. As governor, I’ll fight every day to get our kids the skills they need to compete in a 21st century economy. Here’s how.
Putting Families and Students First — Giving Kids a Shot at Success
As governor, Ralph Northam will fight to make quality education available for all Virginians, no matter who they are, no matter where they are. The plan includes measures to:
Continue SOL Reform — Creating Critical Thinkers
Gov. McAuliffe, working with the General Assembly, should be credited with eliminating unnecessary standards-of-learning (SOLs) — and reforming others. We have to stop teaching our children to take multiple choice tests and prepare them for the careers of the 21st century by encouraging creative problem solving. A Northam administration will continue the work of eliminating and revising our SOLs.
Expand Access to Quality and Affordable Early Childhood Education
Ralph is a parent, as well as a pediatrician, so he knows good childcare and early education is vital to kids’ success. Children experience their most significant brain development during their early childhood years, with the most learning potential before age five. If one family has the means to send their child to pre-K and another does not, that begins the divide between the “haves” and the “have nots” in our communities.
That’s why Ralph wants to make early childhood education for every Virginia public school student his top educational priority — and he’s already started. As chair of the Commonwealth Council on Childhood Success, Ralph led an effort to open up and improve classrooms for up to 13,000 more kids.
The private sector is making the connection between a healthy workforce and access to early childhood education, health screenings, and school nutrition. As governor, Ralph will work with it to increase access for all of Virginia’s children.
Expand Computer Science
Virginia is home to the technology corridor in northern Virginia, multiple NASA sites, and emerging markets such as cybersecurity and unmanned aerial systems, and it’s in a unique position to significantly expand the number of students taking computer science, coding, and advanced placement courses. However, minorities continue to be underrepresented in taking AP computer science. Through private sector and nonprofit partnerships and working with the General Assembly, a Northam administration will set aggressive goals for students in K-12 completing computer science courses.
Break the School-to-Prison Pipeline
A 2015 report shows that Virginia leads the nation in referring students to law enforcement. This disproportionately affects students of color. We must invest in more school counselors and more funding for proven and proactive intervention strategies like Positive Behavior Intervention Services (PBIS). The statistics are sobering. More African American students are expelled and suspended, and it’s hurting our communities. Ralph supports Congressman McEachin’s effort to investigate these disparities. Keeping students in school and on track to graduate is good for everyone.
Give All our Children a Shot at Success
As a member of the Children’s Cabinet, Dr. Northam and the McAuliffe administration are helping our most challenged schools combat chronic absenteeism and poor academic performance — but there’s still work to do. The commonwealth of Virginia spends, on average, approximately $80M million per year to remediate students in kindergarten through third grade. We need to reevaluate how we test our youngest students and ensure we’re putting them on track for success at the beginning of their academic careers. A big part of addressing this issue is making sure quality pre-K is available to all young Virginians — though it also involves challenging conventional methods of student assessments and alternatives to having students repeat grades at early ages.
Promote Community Support and Wraparound Services in Our Schools
Great teachers are critical to students’ educational success, though a child’s ability to learn and grow is influenced by many other factors. Recognizing that, we need to focus on the whole child by bringing together services that support health, well-being, social, and academic success. Community agencies, businesses, families, nurses, and teachers all work together in community schools to create the best environment for a child’s development. This approach ensures all children, regardless of skills or ability, have an equal shot at success, and the model has been proven to be effective at improving student performance and reducing absenteeism. As part of these programs, we must promote discussions with parents and students about the types of jobs available in the 21st century economy during middle school so they can orient their education towards learning the necessary skills.
Support High School Redesign and Jumpstart Developing the Workforce
We need to completely rethink the high school experience and ensure that all students are prepared to enter the workforce with the skills they need to be successful. A Northam administration will continue to support high school redesign efforts started under Gov. McAuliffe, and coupled with programs like Dr. Northam’s proposed G3 Program (Get a Job — Get Skilled — Give Back), Virginia’s students will have the resources they need to be prepared for the jobs of the 21st century.
Attracting, Retaining, and Supporting Teachers
Give Teachers a Seat at the Policy Making Table
Too often, Richmond is making policy decisions without teachers’ input. Through the State Board of Education and the Department of Education, a Northam administration will make sure that teachers are a valuable part of the education policy making process.
Support Accountability Reform
As Virginia implements a new accountability framework and accreditation system, Ralph will work with the Board of Education, the Department of Education, local divisions and education stakeholders to successfully implement a rigorous system that drives continuous improvement and holds schools and divisions accountable for a variety of student outcomes.
Prioritize Teacher Pay, Training, and Recruitment
Dr. Northam supports recent pay raises for state workers and teachers. However, teacher pay in Virginia still lags behind the national median. To have the best education system in the country, we have to recruit and retain the best teachers. That includes regular professional development and training so they can continue to build their skills. As of October 2016, there were 800 classrooms across Virginia without a full-time teacher — this is unacceptable, and we have to do better.