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Northam Budget Boosts Access To African American History, Improvements at HBCU’s

Governor Ralph Northam State of the Commonwealth
Governor Ralph Northam delivers the 2019 State of the Commonwealth Address. (Photo: Craig Carper/VPM News)

Governor Ralph Northam is setting aside millions of dollars in his biennial budget request to support black history education, as well as historically black colleges and universities. 

The budget includes additional money for museums, cultural sites and highway markers that Northam said help better tell the story of African Americans in Virginia. He’s asking lawmakers to approve $4.5 dollars to provide K-12 students the ability to visit the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia and the American Civil War Museum. He wants to spend more than $7 million to support historic African American sites, including Freedom House, Monticello, Montpelier, and Maymont and $1 million to support the Slavery and Freedom Heritage site in Richmond. 

“Black history is American history,” Northam said. “But in the past, there has been little state support for the institutions that preserve and teach that history. We aim to rectify that.”

The governor’s budget also includes $895 million in capital funding for public colleges and universities, $262 million of which will go to Virginia State University and Norfolk Station University, which he says have been underfunded for too long. 

Northam has included money to encourage more students of color to become teachers in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. And he’s set aside money to help HBCU’s provide additional support to their students. 

“Many of our HBCU’s attract students from the first generation in their families to attend college,” Northam said. “Those students often need additional guidance and support, no matter what school they attend.”

Northam released his two-year, $135 billion spending plan, on Tuesday, which also includes a gas tax hike and an end to the taxpayer relief fund, the refund checks that were mailed to many Virginians this fall.

Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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