Gov. Bill Haslam dabbled in the chicken-and-egg debate about education and poverty this morning, a topic he’s rarely broached during this nearly three years in office.
Haslam typically uses public speeches on education to link policy changes to goals of filling unmet needs of the workforce, but he deviated from his traditional talking points during his keynote speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s summit on education and the workforce this morning in Washington, D.C.
Here’s what he had to say, after the jump:
“At the end of the day, though, if you’re a governor in this country, your biggest challenge is a cultural one, changing the expectation levels of your citizens.
One of the things that we have to address and make certain we change, though, is the whole question of which children can learn and which ones can’t. There’s a big underlying debate in the country right now, beyond Common Core, beyond everything we’ve talked about and it’s this: Some folks who argue, you are not going to fix education until you fix poverty. There’s others of us — and I’m in the second group — who feel like you’re not going to fix poverty until you fix education. We’ve been attacking the poverty problem in this country for several, for a lot of years, I’ll just put it that way.
I honestly feel like the biggest thing that we can do to attack poverty is to give every child, regardless of where they live, the opportunity to truly have a great education. The opportunity to, as the video you just saw, to have a great teacher in front of every child regardless of where they live. The opportunity for every one of those students, regardless of where they live, to go get a post-secondary credential. I think until we do that, we won’t be providing the opportunities we need.
There’s a great debate in the country right now about the growing inequality. Remember the Occupy Wall Street and the 1 percent versus the 99 percent. Despite those efforts and despite an administration who has said when they came into office, we’re going to focus on the inequality and shrink that gap, the gap continue to widen. There are a lot of reasons for that, and we can have a lot of discussions in here. But I’m convinced that one of the reasons is education makes such a bigger difference now than it ever has before.