INTERVIEW: Jobs Start With Education, Delaware Governor Says
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Delaware Governor Jack Markell (D) has a pretty simple prescription for attracting businesses to his state: give them a skilled and educated workforce.
“In the end, education is the most important thing. We’ve been one of the states that spend relatively more per student, but results are in the middle. We want results among the best,” Markell told FreeEnterprise.com in a phone interview.
Across the country, students are at a competitive disadvantage, Markell says. “We’ve been doing the academic equivalent of having our students practice basketball by shooting at an eight-foot basket,” he said. “The problem is when you get into a game and you’re competing against players who have been practicing shooting at a regulation height, which is a 10-foot basket.”
Markell has big plans on education, including increasing enrollment of pre-school students from 20% to 80% and opening 20 immersion schools where students will learn a second language. Markell’s administration is also implementing the Race to the Top initiative, a $4.35 billion federal fund to bring greater accountability, higher standards, and innovation to American schools. Delaware is using part of the funds to focus on data. “Not only are we seeing significant results in student achievement, but also the types of conversations that this is opening up among teachers, principles, superintendents and such, is very exciting,” he says.
While Delaware is doing better than the national average with a 6.8% unemployment rate, Markell says there’s more work to be done. “As long as there are any Delawareans who aren’t working who want to be working, we’re not satisfied.”
So when companies do lay off workers or close, Markell says he deploys his “rapid response teams” to assist those affected by the closings. He’s also created a “job squad within the Department of Labor to turn our division of unemployment into a division of employment.” The "job squad” matches open positions with resumes in its database. Markell is also looking to pass a tax credit for companies that hire veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“My job is to put myself into the shoes of those who create jobs and focus in on the things they care most about. That includes continuing to improve schools, making sure we’ve got a great workforce, making sure we have reasonable taxes, making sure we’re good stewards of tax dollars, making sure that we have a great quality of life, and also have a really responsive government. If we focus in on those things, we’re going to win more than we lose.”
Markell will join Govs. Dave Heineman (R-NE), Gary Herbert (R-UT) and Scott Walker (R-WI) at the U.S. Chamber's 2012 Jobs Summit on June 13 in Washington D.C.
Check back on FreeEnterprise.com for coverage of that event and interviews with the other governors, and read last year's interview with Markell and the other governors here.