By Michael Short
Markell spoke before officials and members of the public during a luncheon on Tuesday, Oct. 5 in honor of Milton’s five governors. The tiny town has produced four Delaware governors and one governor of Wyoming.
Markell told the audience that Delaware has focused on three areas: jobs, education and increasing government efficiency. He said that education remains vital to the future, noting that Bill Gates once said the most important factor in choosing a business location is the quality of the local school system.
“We haven’t been honest with our kids about what it is they need to know,” he said.
He explained that in a global marketplaces, Delaware’s students need to be better prepared or they will be in “a world of hurt.”
“The world of the future demands we overeducate our kids,” he said.
He said that parents need to be more involved, but that everyone needs to play a role in making our students prepared. He said he was proud of the Race to the Top success enjoyed by Delaware and said that a public conversation about stronger schools will be taking place in locations around Kent and Sussex Counties in the next few weeks.
The first of those ten conversations was September 28 in Newark.
A statement announcing the program said “these conversations will focus on efforts underway to improve student performance, support teachers and make sure Delaware’s children graduate ready to succeed in work or college.”
“Are we going to tackle these issues or are we just going to punt for the next generation?” he asked, adding that he had no intention of just punting the ball.
Markell also focused on jobs, saying that Delaware has an 8.4 percent unemployment rate, which means some 35,000 Delawareans do not have a job. Losing GM, Chrysler and Valero in eleven months was “an incredible kick in the gut,” he said. “That was the best opportunity for generations to enter the middle class,” he said.
But Markell said there are other success stories like Baltimore Aircoil moving to Milford. He said the state needs to be “fast, nimble and flexible” in order to attract and create jobs. “We are focused every single day on how to create jobs.”
He said one of the unique things about Delaware is that politicians often work together to solve problems. Delaware isn’t always perfect in that regard, but politicians are often willing to “put their partisanship aside and do what makes sense,” he said.
Markell also said he has worked to improve government efficiency in part by trimming vehicle fleets, re-negotiating cellphone rates and reducing the state payroll by 524 people since taking office.
Despite living in incredibly difficult times, he said that this is also a chance for opportunity.
He took time to praise Milton, saying it was wonderful to be here. “This is a great town. It is a wonderful place.”