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. 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, he led an effort to open up and improve classrooms for up to 13,000 more kids.
A quality education for all Virginia students. Our kids deserve to go to schools where they feel safe and get the highest quality education. We can’t allow the Trump Administration to destroy the success of Virginia’s public schools, public universities, or community college system. Ralph will fight to defend our public schools and will support classroom innovation to develop new methods of teaching our kids the skills they need for a 21st century economy.
Teacher pay. Teacher pay in Virginia is now well below the national average, and we’re losing good teachers because of it. This is contributing to inequality in our education system, as rural and less affluent school districts cannot afford to supplement state funding. Ralph will work with Democrats and Republicans alike to attack inequality in education by raising pay for teacher—a bipartisan priority in Richmond.
Revise standards of learning (SOLs). Standardized testing has always played a role in our schools. However, by placing too much emphasis on them, we have done so at the expense of other measurements of success. We need to teach our children to think creatively, not teach them to take multiple choice tests. The jobs of the future require more than teaching to the test. They require an ability to analyze new problems and think of creative solutions. Our SOLs should match the new economy.
Invest in STEAM. As our technology industry grows, so do the number of good jobs in technology—and our schools should reflect that. We need to expand computer programming and expand STEAM curriculum to help train Virginia kids so they can take advantage of business growth and job creation in the tech industry.
Cut college costs. Too many Virginia students still can’t afford to attend our public colleges and universities. We need to ensure that any qualified Virginia student can access these institutions. Students should not have to shoulder the burden of large tuition increases, and every student should have an option to go without oppressive debt.
Expand access to apprenticeships and training. Not every Virginian wants—or needs—to attend a four year college or university, but every Virginian should have the opportunity to gain further education or training. That means encouraging participation in industry certification programs, community colleges, and apprenticeship programs, and other advanced training. Ralph is committed to working with both businesses and community colleges to ensure there is a local training option for every available job. He also believes the final two years of high school should provide apprenticeships and job training for students who do not want to attend a four year college.
Build a school-to-work pipeline. Ralph believes our education system must create a pipeline from high school to community college, higher education, or a good paying job. Not only would this encourage students to stay in school and graduate, but it would also encourage employers to locate in Virginia, a commonwealth with good schools and a skilled workforce waiting for them.
Jobs for veterans. In the past year, under Governor McAuliffe and Lt. Governor Northam, Virginia has doubled the number of veterans placed in jobs through the Virginia Values Veterans program. Ralph also supported legislation to establish a program to connect returning military medics to private sector healthcare jobs. Previously, these men and women would go unemployed because their medical experience was not recognized in civilian society, while employers left jobs unfilled, especially EMT positions. As an Army doctor, Ralph knows medics are highly qualified for such positions, having training and field experience with a variety of traumatic wounds. Ralph will continue to grow these programs until there is no longer any veteran joblessness in Virginia, just as veteran homelessness has been functionally eradicated.