[caption id="attachment_36136" align="alignright" width="186"]<img class=" wp-image-36136" src="https:\/\/theenterprise.net\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/23\/2020\/06\/Northam-closeup-300x284.jpg" alt="" width="186" height="176" \/> Gov. Northam[\/caption]\r\n\r\nGov. Ralph Northam launched his \u2018Thank You, Virginia\u2019 Tour on Monday, announcing that he will propose a two-year state budget next week that includes record funding for public education, including a 10 percent pay raise for teachers.\r\n\r\nVirginia has already increased teacher salaries more than 10 percent under Northam\u2014the largest increase in 15 years. This latest raise will push Virginia\u2019s teacher pay above the national average.\r\n\r\n\u201cPaying teachers is the right thing to do, and a wise investment,\u201d\u00a0said Northam.\u00a0\u201cVirginia has invested in teachers in a big way over these past four years, and now it\u2019s time to do much more. Our country has asked teachers to carry a heavy load, especially during the pandemic. They have delivered, and they deserve to be rewarded. This raise is possible because of strong, steady fiscal stewardship. Virginia\u2019s strong economy has delivered booming revenues. What we\u2019ve been doing these four years is working, and Virginia should continue it.\u201d\r\n\r\nNortham\u2019s proposal will increase compensation 5 percent a year in each of the next two budget years, for a cumulative increase of 10.25 percent. When matched by local funds, the increase will push compensation for the typical Virginia teacher above the national average.\r\n\r\nNortham noted that local budgets have been significantly augmented by federal and state pandemic relief dollars. These funds include more than $1.3 billion of federal CARES Act dollars that Virginia allocated to localities in 2020, and another nearly $3 billion in federal ARPA funds (American Rescue Plan) for counties and cities in Virginia earlier this year.\r\n\r\n\u201cTeachers deserve to be paid more, and Governor Northam has delivered,\u201d\u00a0said Secretary of Education Fran Bradford.\u00a0\u201cThat\u2019s an important tool in recruiting and retaining talented teachers. It matters in normal times, and it\u2019s critical today.\u201d\r\n\r\n<strong>Under Northam, early childhood education is now available to more Virginia families than ever befor<\/strong>e:\r\n\r\n*Since 2018 Virginia has more than doubled public Pre-K funding to serve a record total of more than 25,000 three- and four-year-olds.\r\n\r\n*Virginia has expanded access to affordable childcare to more families than ever before, serving more than 27,000 children and exceeding pre-pandemic participation.\r\n\r\n*The Commonwealth has received national attention for investing in an early childhood teacher incentive grant program that has cut turnover in half in participating classrooms.\r\n\r\n<strong>Virginia\u2019s tuition-free community college now helps working people who choose career paths in high-demand fields.<\/strong>\r\n\r\nYou may be eligible, if you pursue a career in Healthcare, Information Technology, Manufacturing and Skilled Trades, Early Childhood Education, or Public Safety.\r\n\r\nThe message is simple: Get skilled, get a job, give back.\r\n\r\n<strong>Virginia\u2019s K-12 public schools benefit from record funding<\/strong>:\r\n\r\n*Virginia has increased teacher salaries more than 10 percent under Northam--the largest increase in 15 years.\r\n\r\n*Virginia is helping students by hiring more counselors. School counselors are now responsible for 325 students on average, down from as many as 500.\r\n\r\n<strong>Virginia is making it easier to go to college.<\/strong>\r\n\r\n*Virginia has made\u00a0the largest-ever investment in historically Black colleges and universities\u2014$328 million over three years. This includes $297 million for capital projects and nearly $32 million in operating support.\r\n\r\n*Students attending Virginia high schools are now eligible for financial aid and in-state tuition, regardless of their citizenship status.