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State Control Key To Education Reform, Haslam Tells Country

One of the keys to improving education in America is giving states more autonomy to make policy decisions, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said on national television Monday.

“I’ll say this to make it real easy. I think we want a federal Department of Education that all of us see as a resource, not a regulator,” Haslam said.

Haslam appeared alongside nine other governors offering their takes on education policy during NBC’s Education Nation summit.

“As a Republican governor, I understand, I believe in the idea that giving control back to the states is a very, very good thing,” he continued. He said voters should hold public officials, including himself, accountable for improvements in education.

Haslam joined governors from Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Oklahoma, Maryland, Maine, Rhode Island, Virginia and Wisconsin for a panel entitled “The State of Education: The Governor’s Perspective,” moderated by NBC News’ Brian Williams.

The event is the second of its kind hosted by NBC meant to “engage the country in a solutions-focused conversation about the state of education in America.”

Last year’s summit included a three-minute video of then-Gov. Phil Bredesen explaining the significance of the Volunteer State’s winning $500 million in the Race to the Top education reform contest.

Haslam sat on another panel, “A Matter Of Degrees: Measuring The Value Of Higher Ed,” Tuesday, saying the mismatch between graduates’ skill sets and the private sector’s needs is a “huge problem.”

“All of us need to increase the percentage of our population with a degree if we’re going to compete for the jobs coming down the road. The issue is in states’ budgets, higher ed is what has been squeezed out, and it’s been squeezed out basically by raising Medicaid costs that all states have had to pay,” Haslam said on the program, which was moderated by NBC’s Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell.

He touted one of the strategies Tennessee has used to try and correct that: offering first-generation college students money through TNAchieves to help cover the cost gap not covered by student aid. “I think you’re going to see states coming up with creative programs like that because of the budget realities we’re having to deal with.”

Watch the video from Monday’s panel discission:

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