Written on: April 22nd, 2013 in Education
Guest post by Jennifer Ranji, Secretary for the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families
The most important investments we make as a society are those that help our children get off to a strong start in life. That’s why we’ve stepped up our focus in this area, leveraging state and federal investments here in Delaware. We are in the middle of a great story – a story about giving our state’s children a great start in school and in life, but we still have a lot of work to do.
We have been hard at work over the last couple years supporting enhanced outcomes for our earliest learners, including providing a significant increase in early childhood funding. Just this week we laid out our roadmap. Delaware’s early childhood strategic plan was recently launched and is available online. Entitled Sustaining Early Success, the plan focuses on creating and sustaining a comprehensive early childhood system for all Delaware children and their families, through four strategic goals:
Our state must continue to link these elements together to set each child on a course toward lifelong success. Ultimately, the payoff benefits children, their families, employers, teachers and taxpayers. It affects every aspect of our lives, from healthier and safer communities to a stronger tax base and more qualified workforce. More specifically, students who have attended quality preschool are more likely to graduate from high school and go on to college, ultimately providing Delaware with a stronger workforce and allowing us to compete more effectively in a global economy.
Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman of the University of Chicago makes the case for such an investment saying, “Early childhood investments of high quality have lasting effects…. In the long run, significant improvements in the skill levels of American workers, especially workers not attending college, are unlikely without substantial improvements in the arrangements that foster early learning. We cannot afford to postpone investing in children until they become adults, nor can we wait until they reach school age — a time when it may be too late to intervene.”
Our state benefits from a committed community of advocates for early childhood education. Every citizen has a stake in the success of these efforts, and it’s time now for us to expand our base of advocates to include each of you. Going forward, we need to do what Delaware often prides itself on doing best – driving change through partnership and collaboration.
The evidence is irrefutable, the path forward is clear and the stakes are profoundly important. This is the single most important investment we can make for a better future. We are in the middle of a great story – and it’s time to write the next chapter. We can do it, and with your help, together we will sustain early success in early childhood education.
Written on: April 2nd, 2013 in Effective & Efficient Government
It has been remarkable to be engaged in the fast-moving transformation of public opinion on the issue of marriage equality – momentum that can be attributed, in large part, to our children. Much as the civil rights and women’s liberation movements served as a call-to-action for young adults of the 60s and 70s, debating issues like marriage equality and gender identity will become defining moments in their lifetime. And yet, for many of them, the current debate leaves them perplexed – rightfully so.
Two years ago, I was proud to sign landmark civil union legislation into law, making Delaware one of only a handful of states to allow same-sex civil unions and fully recognize same-sex relationships. Over 600 people celebrated together at what was described as one of the most emotional bill signings in forty years. Yet, when I got home and told my two teenage children about the event, they couldn’t believe it wasn’t already the law.
The concept of discrimination is something our children first learn about in history class. They learn that, decades ago, someone’s gender or skin color had an impact on where a person could learn, work or even sit on a bus. They learn that young people, just like them, chose to fight against discrimination and won. As a result, our young people today grow up learning tolerance, acceptance and inclusion – important lessons as we progress as a society.
Yet, as we anticipate legislation here in Delaware and hear debates happening across the country regarding the legalization of same-sex marriage, it is evident discrimination still exists. We must use the momentum and the evidence of growing support on this subject to take another historic step toward true equality. Together, we will write the next chapter in history and prove, once again, that in Delaware, justice and equality move one way – forward.
This blog was originally published on The Huffington Post
Written on: March 19th, 2013 in Education
After a short break, the Legislature is back in session, which means an opportunity to spend more time in Dover and Legislative Hall. Most recently, I had an opportunity to meet with several groups of high school students (and their parents) – including the undefeated, Division II State Championship football team from Caravel Academy and some of the best high school senior basketball players in Delaware, who were chosen to play in the BlueGold All-Star game. These young men and women were as gracious during our visit as they are talented in their extracurricular activities. And while I appreciate the opportunity to congratulate them for their achievements, more so I see these short visits as a chance to send a message I think all high school students, my son Michael included, should hear.
This is an exciting time for teens – spring break, prom season and the pending end to another school year are all top of mind. It’s a celebratory time for most and (as those who lived it can attest) a fleeting chance to enjoy the freedom that comes with being a kid. But teenagers often act as though they’re invincible, which means it’s our job – as parents, mentors and neighbors – to remind them they are not. It doesn’t mean they can’t have a great time – they absolutely should – but they should do so with this message in mind: Have a great time – but be careful, use common sense and remember people care about you and want to see you live a long, productive, successful life.
Like the others who come to visit in Dover, so many of our teens represent what makes our state great. I look forward to more meetings and more opportunities to hear of how each them is helping move Delaware forward.
Written on: January 10th, 2013 in Helping Our Neighbors
Four years ago, Carla and I invited you to join us in a statewide Weekend of Service. You embraced that call to service and, with your enthusiasm and commitment, we were able to dramatically increase the reach of volunteerism in Delaware. We cannot thank you enough for the hundreds of thousands of hours you have spent helping those in need, proving Delaware is not just a state, but a state of neighbors.
That sense of community served as the catalyst behind Carla’s launch of “Project Renewal,” a campaign aimed to mobilize volunteers, community leaders and resources across the state in a coordinated effort to renew and upgrade the Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware. Work has already been completed at the H. Fletcher Brown and Clarence Fraim Boys and Girls Club and, to kick off this year’s Week of Service, we have invited my staff and members of my Cabinet to join us in completing projects at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club in Sussex County.
Carla and I invite every Delaware to join in our Week of Service, which runs from Friday, January 11, through Monday, January 21. We hope each of you will take a little time out of your busy schedules to help others. Whether you’re cleaning up a community center like the Boys and Girls Clubs of Delaware, delivering lunches for Meals on Wheels or helping to construct a new home with Habitat for Humanity, I am sure it will be as rewarding for you as it is for the people you serve. To find a comprehensive list of service projects – big or small – in Delaware, please visit www.volunteerdelaware.org.
Every person can make a difference in the lives of others and in their communities. We believe that because we have seen it – in Delaware’s cities and small towns. In its schools, churches and nonprofit organizations. And, most importantly, we have seen the difference that reaching out and our shared connectedness has with countless families and individuals.
As we visit various organizations and lend our support to make a difference, we will celebrate the thousands of Delawareans who already volunteer, while encouraging others to donate their time and talent. It is our hope that every citizen who volunteers this week will continue volunteering not just for a week, but for a lifetime.
Written on: January 3rd, 2013 in Guest Posts
Guest post by Rita Landgraf, Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services
Earlier this week, we hosted an event at the Downtown Central YMCA in Wilmington to kick off “31 Days to a Healthier You,” a social media campaign offering healthy-living ideas and advice directly to Delawareans.
At the beginning of every New Year, people resolve to lose weight, stop smoking or exercise more. Those big goals have the best chance at succeeding if we break them down into small changes in our daily lives. “31 Days” will offer tips and advice on manageable steps that can add up to big rewards.
Our campaign will bring information to people via social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, flickr and Instagram. Look for the hashtag #healthDE. We also want Delawareans to interact with us. We know that those small steps can become lifestyle changes if we talk with others about what we’re doing and why.
As a state, we have made progress on several key health indicators. Our smoking levels are at historic lows. Our heart disease deaths have dropped significantly, and so has our cancer death rate.
But there are many more challenges. The prevalence of obesity among adults in Delaware has doubled from 1990 to 2010, with nearly two-thirds of adults now at an unhealthy weight. Unfortunately, that pattern of behavior extends to our young people, with 37 percent of Delaware children at an unhealthy weight in 2011.
We can do better. If you have seen Gov. Markell out cycling, you know how seriously he embraces an active lifestyle and the promotion of good health. In 2010, he appointed the Delaware Council on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention to help create a culture of health and wellness in our state. Today, please join our social media campaign and commit to a healthier you.