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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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Big Apple-Bound Again

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam will do double duty in New York early this week, working on job creation while also appearing at the NBC event called the Education Nation Summit.

Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty and a small team from ECD will be along for the trip in an effort much like the jobs trek the governor made to California in early September.

“We’ve asked our ECD folks — Commissioner Hagerty and others — to put together three or four different groups of both site selection people and some existing businesses, so again we can continue to sell Tennessee,” Haslam said.

Hagerty said the New York trip will run Monday-Wednesday. Haslam is scheduled to appear at a Tennessee Downtown Partnership event Wednesday in Nashville at noon. First Lady Crissy Haslam is scheduled to join her husband at the education summit.

The NBC education event kicks off with a teachers’ town hall on Sunday and concludes with a session with former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday. Haslam said he would be part of two panels at the summit, one on K-12 education and another on completing college.

Hagerty said the Tennessee contingent got a positive reception when it traveled to California and that the group will meet in New York with companies that have private equity investments in Tennessee as well as companies that have not made investments in the state yet.

Haslam and Hagerty have repeatedly said the state is interested in growing businesses that already exist in the state as well as those they would like to attract to Tennessee.

The education summit is expected to include governors Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island; Nathan Deal of Georgia; Mary Fallin of Oklahoma; John Hickenlooper of Colorado; Paul LePage of Maine; Jack Markell of Delaware; Bob McDonnell of Virginia; Sean Parnell of Arkansas; and Scott Walker of Wisconsin.

Haslam is expected on Monday to participate in a discussion called “The State of Education: The Governor’s Perspective.” That session is expected to cover a variety of educational issues and include questions from teachers, principals, parents and students.

Haslam was invited to introduce President Barack Obama last Friday at the White House for the president’s announcement of a new approach to the federal No Child Left Behind Law. Obama is scheduled to give his third annual “Back To School” speech on Wednesday at a high school in Washington.