Written on: September 10th, 2013 in Education
Delaware is one of many states investing in strengthening its education system by, among other things, implementing the Common Core standards. But the impact of all K-12 education policies will be limited unless students are prepared to learn on day one.
Despite positive rhetoric from leaders across the political spectrum, we are still not investing enough in early childhood education across the country. We just learned that policies in Washington have shut 57,000 children out of Head Start. We are moving in the wrong direction.
Those in Washington who fight additional investment have not considered the economic consequences of failing to act. When some Congressional Republicans say that “throwing more money into the nation’s education system is not the right answer to the challenges facing our classrooms,” they should examine the empirical research on early learning. Few uses of taxpayer money produce a higher public return than investments in early education when you consider the massive savings in future education, health care, and criminal justice system costs.
Off of Capitol Hill there here have been bipartisan calls for action. Governors from both parties are investing in early learning and it was the topic of a recent event co-hosted by two groups that would seem to have little in common: the Center for American Progress and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
President Obama has already made this issue a priority with his Early Learning Challenge, showing how Washington can leverage a small amount of competitive funding to great effect by encouraging innovative state-run programs. In Delaware, the design and growth of our pre-kindergarten efforts were helped by this federal investment.
But while the President continues to do what he can, the politics of Washington are a major roadblock to further federal action. Although we continue to welcome federal help, states must pick up the baton and work toward the goal of ensuring early learning opportunities for every American child.
That doesn’t mean simply enrolling all of our children in preschool. It’s the quality of care that matters. Study after study shows that children receiving quality early care are more likely to be successful in school, become better citizens, and earn more. Getting results requires a comprehensive approach that focuses on learning environment, health, and the capabilities of the professionals caring for children.
In Delaware, as in other leading states, we have a roadmap for what works:
Learning Environment: Like many states, Delaware assigns ratings to early childhood programs. An effective system uses clear metrics that help educate families on the best options for their children. That means evaluating curriculum, teacher qualifications and development, family and community partnerships, and leadership and administration.
Of course, we want every center to reach the highest level, but, historically, disadvantaged children have attended lower-rated programs that lack financial resources to improve. In Delaware, we’ve leveled the playing field for our kids. Higher rated centers receive more state aid to support enrollment of low-income children, making quality programs available to children who need them the most.
Health: Fewer than half of children with developmental delays are identified before they start school and services for Medicaid-funded screenings for low-income children are often overlooked. We must increase screenings that identify physical and behavioral health concerns, and provide appropriate referral and follow up services. Meanwhile, early childhood centers need to promote healthy eating and physical activity, while working with parents to support these practices at home.
In Delaware, we’re also reaching out to pediatricians and parents to ensure children receive all of these services and we’re sending Health Ambassadors to the neediest communities for events like community baby showers, where pregnant women learn about health resources.
Workforce: All of our efforts are only as good as the people who execute them, but many of the people in our early childhood workforce cannot afford to increase their qualifications. In Delaware, we offer scholarships to early learning staff to support additional education, and we’re training more licensed behavioral health specialists. In addition, by basing the ratings and support for early childhood centers in part on the credentials of their teachers, we help increase professional development.
Early childhood investments have never been more important. Recent studies have offered new insight into the challenges faced by disadvantaged children, finding that parents’ income and education levels correlate to their children’s brain development. However, research also shows we know how to overcome that challenge through a positive learning environment in a child’s first five years, when 90 percent of brain development takes place.
Fredrick Douglass famously said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” States are taking us to the next level, moving beyond rhetoric, and implementing practical solutions. It is time for Congressional Republicans to follow.
This blog post was originally published on Politico.
Written on: August 15th, 2013 in Job Creation
Ten years ago, I met a 25 year old employee of Bank of America in Delaware. He had Down Syndrome and was enthusiastically making t-shirts on a silk screen press. He told me how thrilled he was to be working.
I asked him what he had done before getting that job. He told me he had sat at home for six years watching TV with his parents. And during that time, his parents watched after their disheartened son.
This is the reality for too many Americans with disabilities and their families. Twenty three years after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, only 20 percent of the 54 million Americans living with a disability are employed or seeking employment, compared to almost 70 percent of people without disabilities.
It’s time, once and for all, to move the needle. That’s why I recently released my “A Better Bottom Line: Employing Individuals with Disabilities” blueprint for governors at the conclusion of my one year tenure as Chair of the National Governors Association.
This blueprint is not about feel good social policy. As Greg Wasson, CEO of Walgreens, has told his peers, Walgreens employs people with disabilities not out of charity, but as a business decision.
At Walgreens’ distribution facilities in Connecticut and South Carolina, approximately half of the employees have disabilities. And those two centers perform as well as, if not better than, any other facility in the Walgreens supply chain.
At Acadia Windows and Doors in Maryland, 6 out of 60 employees have disabilities. Neill Christopher, the company’s Vice President, said he resisted hiring the first employee with a disability out of a fear that window manufacturing is too dangerous. Now, several employees later, he reports that the company operates safer than ever and that his new employees not only make the company better, but also kinder.
CAI, a regional IT company, has committed to making people with autism 3 percent of its consultant base within 3 years. SAP, the mammoth enterprise software company, has made a similar commitment. Both companies have done so because they recognize that many people with autism excel at software testing.
My blueprint is designed to give governors tools to increase employment of people with disabilities in their states. Based on input from business leaders, it suggests that states change their approach. Historically, our Divisions of Vocational Rehabilitation have asked companies to do a favor to those with disabilities by offering them a job. That will change. In the future, our Departments of Labor will seek to be real business partners to companies looking to hire people with particular skills. Some of those people recommended may have disabilities and some may not. But the real focus will be on the ability and not the disability.
In addition, states must do a better job of preparing our youth with disabilities. Too often in the past, there has been an expectation that they would sign up at 17 or 18 for a lifetime on public benefits. No more. Now our young people will know that we have an expectation that they will find work and even a career. They will be educated and have access to career exploration opportunities accordingly.
In an era when there seems to be so little common ground between Democrats and Republicans, this issue stands apart. For my blueprint, I teamed up with South Dakota Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard, a remarkable man who grew up in South Dakota with two parents who are deaf.
Federal officials as far apart as Democrat Senator Tom Harkin and Republican members of congress Pete Sessions and Cathy McMorris Rodgers are working together on this issue.
And when I testified at the Senate HELP Committee at the invitation of Senator Harkin, I was approached afterward by Republican Senator Lamar Alexander. He told me how much he appreciated that our approach is focused on how states can help businesses identify, hire and retain people with disabilities rather than how we can extract more federal government money for additional social programs.
In fact, that’s one reason that our initiative is a real win win win. Not only will the individuals themselves have a sense of purpose and know what it’s like to be productive. Not only will their family members have a chance to live fuller lives themselves. But in addition to that, taxpayers win. Instead of spending millions of dollars on benefits and welfare for people with disabilities, many of these budding employees and entrepreneurs will turn into productive taxpayers themselves. And that’s something that liberals and conservatives alike should embrace.
All it takes is for companies throughout the country to follow the lead of businesses like Bank of America, Walgreens, Acadia Windows, CAI and SAP, who are all employing skilled people like the 25 year old I met a few years ago.
This post was originally published on the Huffington Post.
Written on: July 30th, 2013 in Effective & Efficient Government
At a time when partisan talking points too often drown out genuine attempts to improve government, Delaware’s Democrats and Republicans have found common ground on an issue central to putting people back to work: getting rid of bad regulations.
Thoughtful, effective regulations help ensure that we live in safe communities and give businesses a fair chance to compete. But too many rules are outdated, ineffective or overly complicated. They slow economic growth, overburden government and distract all of us from our priorities.
In Delaware, we recently completed a yearlong review that evaluated regulations based on whether they serve a necessary purpose or could be made simpler and more effective. Our wide range of prominent industries, from biotechnology to poultry processing, generates diverse regulatory concerns and allows Delaware to serve as a useful national model.
For example, the state Department of Transportation used to require new entrance permits for commercial properties every time a property changed hands. Even if a business was a drugstore, had always been a drugstore and would always be a drugstore, each property sale required new permitting. That was burdensome and didn’t make anyone safer. It will no longer be required.
Another regulation required installing sidewalks for all new development, adding unnecessary costs to homes, businesses and even firehouses built in rural areas.
The result was the construction of sidewalks to nowhere. Although sidewalks have many benefits, the overly broad application of this rule had little public benefit and added costs to new construction. We will be modifying the requirement to provide builders with more flexibility.
Previously, business owners who needed to retrofit above-ground storage tanks had a limited time — just 60 days — to complete a project or they would need a new permit. That put undue pressure on companies trying to run their day-to-day operations. We’ve extended the time frame to a year and required the agency involved to respond swiftly to requests for approval of retrofitting proposals.
In sum, we are modifying or eliminating 140 regulations out of about 400 considered, with a focus on older regulations that most likely need to be updated.
There will always be a need for regulations that protect our health, environment and public safety. One clear example: a proposal to require Delaware homes that are dependent on well water to perform a test when the property is being sold to provide the buyer with water-quality information. Some argued that we should just let the buyer beware, but we disagreed. Clean drinking water is too important.
Although state employees and politicians came up with some good ideas about making our regulatory systems smarter, some of the best ideas came from the people who know best: local businesses and individuals who have to comply with the rules in the first place. Twelve state agencies that oversee regulations held three town-hall meetings to allow the public to express their views.
The revisions to the rules on entrance permits and sidewalk construction were among those that arose from public comments. In other cases, we explained why proposed changes, such as allowing asbestos workers to complete their annual license renewal by mail rather than in person, would not work. We opposed this due to past instances of fraudulent documentation.
This process of public engagement will continue. In an era when businesses have more choices than ever about where to locate, being smart about our state’s regulatory system is even more important.
Many politicians impede progress by reflexively condemning regulations without distinguishing between rules that work and those that don’t. This approach only produces political theater. By collaborating with business and responding clearly to everyone’s concerns — whether we eventually agree or not — leaders can make regulatory reform a part of economic growth plans.
This blog was originally published on BloombergView.
Written on: July 29th, 2013 in Helping Our Neighbors
Guest post by the First Lady of Delaware, Carla Markell.
Four years ago, Wilmington’s H. Fletcher Brown Boys and Girls Club nearly closed its doors, ending the phenomenal services they provide children at critical times in their development. When my husband, Jack, his staff and I signed up to paint the building as a community service project, we learned the building had much more serious problems: a need for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system repairs, faulty boilers and a leaky roof, to name a few.
It was a dispiriting situation; however, the disappointment spawned a great Delaware success story. A combination of efforts by businesses, community leaders and kindhearted volunteers transformed the facility from an apparent state of disrepair into a welcoming place with a bright future for serving area children.
Astra-Zeneca stepped in with initial seed money to help with HVAC, electric and roof repairs. Other companies followed, providing for renovations of the computer lab and lobby, new electronic equipment, furniture and a book drive. Meanwhile, compassionate citizens who never gave up on Fletcher Brown donated increasing amounts of their time to run programs at the center. The effort at the Brown club inspired additional companies, foundations and individuals to come forward to renovate the Clarence Fraim Boys and Girls Club.
Project Renewal has demonstrated the chance for every individual to make a difference, as well as the endless possibilities to build a better Delaware when we all work together. With continued community support and wonderful leadership from the Boys and Girls Club Board, this effort was duplicated during the 2013 Governor’s Week of Service Kick-Off and April Week of Service at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club. Renovations and upgrades also are underway at the Smyrna-Clayton facility, including a new roof, electrical system and flooring. If you are interested in taking part in the project, please contact Sharon Biddle at 658-1870.
At the Wilmington, Smyrna and Laurel facilities alone, more than 1,700 kids ages 6-14 attend the after-school programs. Sixty percent of club youths come from low-income families. Students receive assistance with schoolwork, pursue interests from arts to athletics and have a safe place to grow, learn and build great futures.
Project Renewal represents just one of hundreds of programs run by nonprofits, schools and other organizations to help Delaware reach its potential. They mentor children, deliver meals to seniors and serve the disabilities community. Others renovate dilapidated buildings, beautify our natural resources and give struggling families a path to self-sufficiency. Almost none can reach their goals without volunteers.
The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has confirmed Delawareans’ commitment to serving others, even after many volunteers’ families were hit hard by the national recession. Our state had the greatest percentage increase (5.3 percent) in volunteering from 2010-11.
According to CNCS, in 2011:
• 65.4 percent of Delawareans did favors for their neighbors.
• 186,760 people volunteered.
• 21.2 million hours of service were performed.
• $462.8 million of service was contributed.
Giving back goes well beyond specific acts of service. It offers a sense of purpose, provides opportunities for physical activity and helps build social relationships, while binding us together and enhancing our sense of community. As the only state that offers a Volunteer Credit for high school students, we must support efforts that give our next generations ways to contribute in their communities. According to a study by CNCS, volunteering even makes us healthier, as shown by lower mortality rates, greater functional ability and less depression later in life among those who volunteer.
The weeks of service held each year since Jack became governor have given us the opportunity to highlight the incredible outpouring of kindness displayed toward friends, neighbors and total strangers every day across our state. We’ve been proud to join the thousands of mentors and tutors who provide that extra measure of support and encouragement for Delaware’s children. At shelters, food banks and mobile health clinics, we’ve seen those who are more fortunate offering comfort to individuals facing hard times.
As part of increasing momentum behind volunteerism, Jack and I will present the Governor’s Outstanding Volunteer Awards this fall. You can nominate Delawareans who have performed extraordinary service in our communities by visiting www.volunteerdelaware.org. It’s important that we demonstrate our gratitude to those who make a special commitment to keeping Delaware a wonderful place to grow up, work, raise a family and retire.
While you’re on the site, I hope you will seek out opportunities to get involved with one or more of the many organizations listed. If you have any questions or want to participate, please contact Carrie Hart at 857-5006 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are ways to get involved that tap into everyone’s strengths. I encourage you to use them as a chance to follow your passion. Together, we can replicate the story of Fletcher Brown across our state, improving the lives of Delawareans and creating a positive and healthy future for all.
This blog was originally published in the News Journal.
Written on: July 22nd, 2013 in Effective & Efficient Government
On July 17, I signed into law a bill enabling the formation of a new type of corporation that is hard wired to compete to be the best in America at being the best for America.
These new Delaware public benefit corporations will harness the power of private enterprise to create public benefit. In the short term, they will create high quality jobs and improve the quality of life in our communities. In the long term, as many enter the public capital markets, they will help combat the plague of short termism that we have seen over the last five years can undermine a shared and durable prosperity.
Some of the most innovative and fast growing private companies in America — like eco-home care brand Method, organic baby food business Plum Organics, fair trade company Alter Eco, and green paper supplier New Leaf Paper — will be among the first to register as Delaware public benefit corporations on August 1st when this law goes into effect.
These businesses, and over 100,000 like them, are profitable, but consider profit to be the means — not the exclusive end goal — of their business. They see profits as a means to fuel growth in social impact as well as to generate attractive returns for stockholders.
Through meetings over the last several years with my staff, the Corporation Law Council of the Delaware Bar, and the Court of Chancery, it became clear that a new Delaware corporate entity was possible that can bring together these innovative business leaders and the investors who want to back them, while maintaining the high standards that are the hallmark of Delaware corporate law.
Many of the businesses considering this new corporate structure — like waste management firm Rubicon Global, e-commerce platform Etsy, and eyewear industry disruptor Warby Parker — feel understandably constrained by existing corporate law that recognizes only one legitimate corporate purpose — to maximize value for stockholders.
Delaware public benefit corporations will function like and enjoy all the same benefits as traditional Delaware corporations and they will have three unique features that make them potential game changers. These three features concern corporate purpose, accountability, and transparency.
The creation of Delaware public benefit corporations is a powerful, no cost, market-based solution to the systemic problem of short termism and an innovative approach to using market forces to solve our most challenging problems.
Because of Delaware’s leading role in U.S. corporate law, enactment of benefit corporation legislation in my state is critical for these businesses that seek access to venture capital, private equity, and public capital markets.
Public benefit corporations are not a replacement for traditional corporations in America. But as the next generation of publicly-traded companies comes into being, benefit corporations will be among them, helping to build public trust in business, and becoming an attractive investment opportunity for the growing number of investors who increasingly want to make money and to make a difference.
And that’s best for America.
This blog was originally published in the Huffington Post.