Governor Carper may deviate from prepared remarks
There are some new faces here in Legislative Hall today as we gather to assess the state of our state. Legislators with names like Mulrooney, Miro, DeLuca, Simpson, Cloutier, Viola, Valihura and Winslow have joined us here for the first time. Why don't we start this afternoon by warmly welcoming each of them and expressing our appreciation for the men and women they succeed?
Youve joined a body that includes many distinguished legislators -- and one or two real characters. Let me take a few moments to mention the accomplishments of a few of the General Assemblys most distinguished members. We'll save the characters for another day. Joining Lt. Governor Minner and President Pro-Tem Sharp in presiding over this joint session is the person who has been selected by his colleagues as Speaker of the House for more terms than anyone in Delaware history -- Terry Spence.
Bob Gilligan, the Democratic leader of the House, has been elected by the people of his district 14 times now -- more than any member of the House in Delaware history.
Thurman Adams, dean of the Senate with 26 years of service -- and chair at various times of both the Executive and Agriculture Committees -- this month becomes, at the tender age of 70, the majority leader of the Delaware State Senate. And, Bruce Reynolds, who joined Senator Sokola and others in co-sponsoring landmark education accountability legislation last year, becomes the first coach in Delaware history whose high school football teams have won 200 games.
Governors have been delivering an annual state of the state address in Delaware for more than 200 years. Today, I give what some will describe as the last state of the state address of the 20th century.
I went back and read the first state of the state address of this century -- given by Governor Ebe Tunnell some 98 years ago. His subjects that day touched on issues which are still important today to Delawareans, including education reform, the preservation of natural resources, and the safety of residents throughout the state.
Governor Tunnell also called for elections to be orderly, but Im not so sure a Governor has yet been able to accomplish that. Governor Tunnell laid out almost a century ago what he believed Delaware needed to undertake as it began the 20th century. Today, I will speak to those things that Delaware needs to complete as we prepare to step into a new century and a new millennium. My message focuses on finishing what we've begun - providing a foundation so that future generations may enjoy a quality of life as good as, or better than, the one we now enjoy.
Where does the end of the 20th century find our state? It finds us with the strongest economy in our region and one of the strongest economies in America. In survey after survey, Delaware wins praise as one of the best states in America to grow a business. In the last year alone, Delaware was #5 in job creation and had the second-fastest growth nationwide in median family income over the past two years. Tomorrow, the Department of Labor will report that our unemployment rate dropped last month to 3.1 percent - the lowest in a decade. Over 62,000 jobs have been created in Delaware since January of 1993 when we took office.
Two decades of bipartisan financial stewardship have yielded a string of balanced budgets, a Rainy Day fund that now holds over $114 million, and the highest credit rating in Delaware history. We have no sales tax. Our property taxes are among the lowest in America. With the latest tax cuts that became effective three weeks ago, our state's top marginal personal income tax rate -- not long ago the second highest in America -- has been reduced by more than two-thirds. Most working families still living in poverty pay no state income taxes until their income exceeds 100 percent of poverty. Every business in Delaware paying the gross receipts tax also received a tax cut on January 1, and a third of them now pay no gross receipts tax at all.
Taxes arent the only thing we've cut. Our welfare rolls are down by over 40 percent since 1994. Families are better off working today than remaining on welfare. We've eliminated the waiting list for low-income eligible childcare, and families in Delaware no longer have to choose between going to work and keeping health care coverage.
We're waging a war against infant mortality, too -- and were winning. Delaware's rate, just a few years ago the highest in the nation, has been driven below the national average. Every Delaware public school now has a nurse. Wellness centers operate in most public high schools. Nemours pediatric health clinics dot our landscape. Medicaid managed care has enabled us to extend coverage to 15,000 additional poor working people. Tax credits encourage our smallest employers to provide health care coverage for employees.
A recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that while the percentage of uncovered persons nationwide is going up, in Delaware, its coming down.
On January 1, we took another giant step forward: kids without coverage from families earning between 100 and 200 percent of poverty became eligible to participate in a good, comprehensive plan of health care known as the Delaware Healthy Children Program -- for as little as $10 to $25 per month, per family.
Universal health care coverage for children in Delaware -- a goal that many of us share -- is finally within our grasp.
We have been fighting on another front, as well: to take back our streets. The State Police reported two weeks ago that violent crimes in their jurisdictions across Delaware dropped by 14 percent in 1998. Every single category of violent crime came down.
Operation Safe Streets helped drive down shootings in Wilmington by a third over the past 12 months. More than 1,400 probation and parole violators found out that zero tolerance means zero tolerance.
We've hired more police. We're training them better than ever, and we are equipping them with the kind of technology that's enabling them to turn the tide against crime.
Delaware has launched the largest prison expansion in state history, too, but we're doing more than just adding prison cells. Beginning this year, every inmate serving a year or more in prison must participate in our nationally recognized Key and Crest programs. Participation in both of these programs reduces by 40 percent the likelihood that inmates upon release will reoffend and end up back in prison.
Early results from our boot camp show that a tough regimen of exercise, school work, drug and alcohol treatment -- along with intensive community service -- can help young men and women turn their lives around.
Prisons arent the only things were building either. The year just ending saw more road construction, more maintenance, and repair than in any year in Delaware history. DelDOT completed the dualization of Route 896 to the C&D Canal, the resurfacing of Route 141, the Bridgeville bypass, the Route 273 and Lancaster Pike expansions, and major improvements at the Christina riverfront. All done in 1998.
In 1999, another impressive list awaits: the dualization of Naamans Road, a project first envisioned when Governor Tunnell was in office, I think will be completed. The Scarborough Road extension in Dover will open, as will the next leg of SR 1 between the C&D Canal and south Odessa. And Churchman's Crossing, the busiest intersection in Delaware, will be completed under budget and ahead of schedule.
Other transportation improvements include the introduction of E-Z pass on I-95 and early this year on SR1. A new Integrated Traffic Management System is improving traffic on busy thoroughfares from Newark's Main Street to the Kirkwood Highway, and on to Concord Pike in northern Delaware. Soon, it will serve the rest of our state.
Public transit has been introduced throughout central and southern Delaware. DART ridership is up 22 percent statewide since 1995. We now run buses at night and on weekends. More people are taking the train, too. With the opening of a new station in Newark, rail ridership grew by nearly 25 percent since 1997. Another new station near Churchman's Crossing opens in just over a year and with it, commuter rail ridership will surge again.
Everybody -- even governors -- complains about their states transportation departments. Its our birthright. But, its also important to remember that there are many good men and women at DelDOT who are working a lot harder these days to create a transportation system for Delaware that is ready for the 21st Century. They have my thanks, and I hope they have yours, as well.
Where we build our roads has a large impact on where people live. Weve been working with the Gordon Administration to limit unnecessary sprawl, especially in southern New Castle County. Smart land use policies are an important part of our stewardship of the environment and the preservation of our natural resources.
Today, Delaware is the #1 state in America for agland preservation. #1! Working with the General Assembly and environmentalists over the past six years, we have protected forever another 16,000 acres of open space.
We're transforming a long-abandoned industrial wasteland along the banks of the Christina River into a recreational area of real beauty for a million visitors each year to enjoy. And, we've assumed management of the Brandywine Park and Zoo along the Brandywine River - with a commitment to making them shine.
In the past decade, weve cut industrial and manufacturing emissions of toxic chemicals into our water by nearly 80 percent and into our air by even more than that. We have met the strict requirements of the federal Clean Air Act. Were also implementing a 10-year action plan to dramatically reduce pollution emptying into our inland bays, the Appoquinimink River, and other waterways that have suffered from decades of neglect.
And finally, more than 25 years after the General Assembly enacted Governor Russell Peterson's Coastal Zone Act to protect our state's fragile coastline, this month, new regulations to fully implement that law will take effect.
Governor Peterson is here with us today. I'd like to ask him to stand and be recognized for the leadership he has provided in preserving our coastline and open space. Governor, thank you for reminding us to remain vigilant in meeting our responsibility to protect our environment for ourselves and for future generations of Delawareans. Id also like to take this opportunity today to propose naming the urban wildlife refuge under development along the banks of the Christina River in your honor.
Despite the great progress we're making in Delaware, there is still plenty to do. I pledge to you today that those of us in the Carper-Minner Administration will use every one of the next 726 days to work with this General Assembly to complete what we've begun -- preparing for our future and all the opportunity it holds.
This afternoon, I want to begin to outline an ambitious and comprehensive agenda that builds on our successes and addresses the challenges that lie ahead. Lets begin by focusing first on taxes and fiscal responsibility.
For six years now, weve prudently managed our states fiscal affairs while providing Delawareans with a wide variety of tax cuts. This year, revenue growth has slowed -- sending us a warning signal to proceed with caution in enacting further tax reductions.
As you know, left on the table from last years tax cut discussions was $48 million in a show of good faith to study school financing and the role of property taxes.
I understand the strongly held beliefs of some in this room that we should eliminate school property taxes and ask Delaware taxpayers to assume all of those costs using state revenues. I believe there are some school taxes that should be cut, and I will offer a proposal to reduce dramatically the property tax burden on our senior citizens. But I continue to question the wisdom of eliminating altogether Delawares school property taxes -- already among the lowest in the nation, and a stable revenue source in both good and bad times. Before we take that step, we need to stop and ask ourselves: do we really want to increase state spending by more than a quarter of a billion dollars over the next five years without putting one extra dime to work in improving our classrooms? We need to think long and hard before taking that step.
Next week, I will offer a balanced package of business and personal tax reductions that is sustainable, fair, and supportive of further economic growth in Delaware. I look forward to working with the General Assembly on my ideas -- and on yours -- in the months ahead.
Our work in cutting taxes will help keep Delawares economy strong in the future.
This week, the General Assembly began to consider another important piece of economic development legislation: electric deregulation. The agreement hammered out over six months provides for significant residential rate reductions, consumer protection, and the opening up of competition for industrial, commercial and other users. I believe it is a good deal for Delaware. It will keep us competitive in the years ahead, and I urge its passage.
Staying competitive in a rapidly changing global economy depends on how well we anticipate new economic trends. Hockey great Wayne Gretzky once replied when asked why he excelled on the ice, I go where the puck will be -- not where it is. The information technology initiative which weve launched with our high tech businesses, colleges, and universities is one important initiative that will enable Delawares economy to go where the puck will be.
Similarly, the expansion of life sciences is about to usher in a new chapter in American industry. Delaware has a unique opportunity to be at its forefront. Two Delaware companies, duPont and Zeneca - the latter soon to become AstraZeneca -- are world leaders in life sciences. By helping both to grow together in our state and creating in Delaware a life sciences corridor for the world, we could help to put little Delaware on the map - and on the radar screens of some of the most promising international companies in business today. My budget will propose creating a new Economic Development 2000 Fund to help establish a Delaware Biotechnology Institute in partnership with the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, and Delaware Tech.
Even sooner, we will put forward a package of infrastructure improvements and economic incentives to attract and grow AstraZeneca in New Castle County. We can do so in a way that creates open space and recreational opportunities for area residents at the same time -- providing a win-win situation that we cannot allow to pass us by.
We know what employers want to locate in our state: a quality workforce, excellent schools, and safe communities in which to live. I have already cited the drop in crime throughout our state and some of the reasons why. Two weeks ago, I announced that Operation Safe Streets would be expanded to Kent and Sussex Counties. Soon, we will announce a new community probation policing system for our state that will allow for closer supervision of probationers -- the group most likely to commit additional crimes.
We have also designed a program to further break the cycle of crime by targeting probationers for drug testing, treatment, and real consequences for failing to remain drug-free.
I am convinced that aggressive probation policing -- coupled with drug treatment -- is a good crime prevention strategy. So is creating more after-school and weekend activities for our youth. Last year, I received a letter from, I believe, the police chief of Seaford. He was writing to tell me that in the months following the opening of the Western Sussex Boys & Girls Club there, juvenile complaints dropped by over 60 percent.
Boys and Girls Clubs, the Y, PAL Centers and other youth programs throughout our state have a track record of success that we should build on. In short, they help keep kids out of trouble. I will ask the General Assembly to create a Youth Crime Prevention Fund, modeled after the successful Arts Stabilization Fund. Its purpose would be to provide incentive grants -- on at least a 3:1 basis -- to expand these successful programs. A state thats spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year to arrest and incarcerate adult offenders can afford to spend a few million dollars more to help keep kids off the street and on the right path in life. I hope youll join with me in this effort.
The coming year will also see heightened attention on the increasing incidence of domestic abuse -- particularly abuse against children. Working with Chief Justice Veasey, I will propose legislation creating a Domestic Abuse Court Project to ensure that the states response to all cases of domestic abuse are coordinated, timely, and effective.
No one in this room is left unmoved by the senseless deaths of children who are abused. While we need to separate fact from fiction in how these tragedies are reported, we know one thing for sure: the job we are asking our Division of Family Services to do today is much different than when the Lt. Governor and I took office six years ago. No longer an agency designed primarily to reunify families in distress, the Division is now increasingly expected to protect every child with whom it comes in contact.
Two years ago, the General Assembly passed the Child Protection Accountability Act to make clear that the safety of children is paramount in DFS cases. This year, I am asking the General Assembly to pass three bills that will give the Division the powers and direction it needs to carry out its expanding role.
As we search for new leadership at the Division of Family Services, I have emphasized the need to make sure the policies we established in the 1997 law to protect children are followed up with clear and decisive action by caseworkers and their supervisors. At the same time, it is imperative that we continue to improve the training of agency personnel, while reducing the turnover in their numbers caused by burnout on the job. Doing these things will do more than enhance our expertise in identifying at-risk children before tragedies occur. Doing these things will save lives.
Theres another more insidious -- but no less lethal -- threat to the lives of our children: tobacco. We need to do more to keep our kids from getting hooked on it. On this day in America, 3,000 children -- with an average age twelve-and-a-half -- will begin smoking. At least 1,000 of them will end up dying from that choice.
Last week, I joined Senator Blevins, Representatives Capano and Maier, as well as Attorney General Brady, in supporting a new campaign to reduce teen smoking.
That campaign can be funded, in part, by the tobacco settlement worked out by the nations attorneys general. The settlement was an important turning point in tobacco litigation, and I want to thank our Attorney General for helping to make it possible.
How much money Delaware ultimately receives will depend on many things. How the money will be spent will be debated for months. But I do hope we can agree on one thing now: the money should be put in a Delaware Health Fund to expand health care coverage and keep Delawareans healthy.
I said earlier that Delawares health care numbers are improving. Used wisely, these funds can make Delaware a national leader in providing health care to our residents. Already there are creative ideas on the table: from completing universal health care coverage for children to a pill bill aimed at helping our senior citizens to handle the rising cost of prescription drugs.
Let me mention one other health care challenge we cannot ignore: Delawares emergency medical system. In November, a study I requested found that our EMS system is fragmented, costly, and inefficient. The simple fact is that more lives could be saved with a more effective system. I know that many good people -- professionals and volunteers -- are part of the EMS system. I ask them to work with Public Safety Secretary Bushweller and the committee he has established to develop an action plan that will reduce response times and better serve Delawareans whose lives depend on them.
We all know that the health of every Delawarean is closely linked to a healthy environment. In the 1990s -- governments in Delaware and around the country -- have tried to balance protection of our environment and natural resources with the need for a strong economy.
For the past six years, I have asked the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to work with polluters in an effort to find cost-effective, common sense solutions to reduce harmful emissions. When those good intentions are rebuffed, we get tough. Its a combination that has worked.
Today, we face a major challenge: how to preserve one of our state's major industries -- agriculture -- and improve water quality at the same time.
In short, here's the situation we face. For every person living here in Delaware, there are about 300 chickens who call Delaware home, too -- at least for a couple of months. Historically, the manure, or litter, from our feathered friends has been used to fertilize the hundreds of thousands of acres of cropland on the Delmarva Peninsula. There, a lot of the corn and soybeans are grown to feed all of those chickens.
Since 1960, the number of acres of cropland across Delaware under cultivation has diminished by nearly one-third. Meanwhile, the number of chickens raised in our state has almost tripled. Today, we have more poultry litter than ever and fewer fields to spread it on. When it rains, excess nutrients from the litter run off into ditches and streams -- resulting in more nitrogen and phosphorous than our waterways and groundwater ought to have.
So much for the problem. What do we do about it? First, we need to be honest and acknowledge that not all nutrient loading of our waterways and groundwater comes from farming operations. Other sources, including wastewater treatment plants, lawns, golf courses, and runoff from roads and parking lots, contribute to this problem as well.
If we want to dramatically improve water quality, all of these sources must be addressed. The cleanup plans for every Delaware waterway which we are developing with the EPA as part of the Clean Water Act will do that over the next 10 years.
In the shorter term, however, the harm caused by the over-application of poultry litter on fields cannot be ignored. Our goal is to reduce the over-application of these nutrients.
Now, there are some who believe that a regulatory approach requiring farmers to obtain "industrial-strength" permits is a large part of the solution. With all due respect, thats a course of action which may well result in more lawsuits than clean water.
So what do we do? Several months ago, I charged an inter-agency team within my Administration with finding solutions for our nutrient overloading problem in Delaware. They have worked with the agriculture advisory committee I created -- as well as with EPA, the large poultry integrators, environmentalists, the agriculture extension service and scientists, along with biotech companies like duPont. Several of them even traveled to Europe in search of answers.
What is coming together is a plan of action that incorporates the best ideas from some of the smartest people around the world.
For example, research has shown that when a substance called phytase is introduced into chicken feed, the phosphorous coming out of the other end of those chickens is reduced by about 25 percent. Already in Delaware, some of our chickens are eating feed that includes phytase. In addition, integrators operating in Delaware will soon require their growers to develop nutrient management plans before those growers receive any additional chicks to raise.
Millions of state and federal dollars will be used to help build manure storage facilities at farms throughout Sussex and Kent Counties to prevent runoff. We expect that millions of additional federal dollars will soon be coming to Delaware to create natural buffer strips between farm fields and waterways both large and small to keep nutrients out of the water. The duPont Company and others are developing genetically-altered corn and other feeds that will result in less phosphorus in chicken litter.
Weve also begun to explore another environmentally-safe, cost-effective use for poultry litter -- one that has been used effectively in Europe for years. Thats to incinerate it and transform it into energy. Europes experience has demonstrated that odors can be tightly controlled, even in an urban setting. Stack gasses can be readily scrubbed to dramatically reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. The byproduct of the incineration is a nitrogen-free ash that can be marketed for use where fertilizers are needed.
Last month, we began discussions with the leadership of Conectiv Power to explore whether a specially-designed boiler could be added to Conectiv's existing power plant in Vienna, Maryland or at its Indian River facility, for poultry litter incineration. I have also contacted Maryland Governor Parris Glendening to explore with him whether this waste-to-energy initiative might hold promise as part of a peninsula-wide solution to nutrient management. Early next month, Conectiv CEO Howard Cosgrove and I will meet with Governor Glendening to discuss how we might proceed.
Finally, we will be discussing with legislators, integrators, and the nutrient management advisory committee the need for legislation similar to that which has been proposed in Virginia -- coupled with a provision to protect farmers and our environment from bad actors who wont do their part to solve this problem.
The actions I have outlined here will not all be easy or cheap. But I am confident that the course we are taking will meet our twin objectives of cleaner water and a strong farm economy.
I want to take the rest of my time with you today to focus on the education of our children. As leader of the National Governors' Association, I have made raising student achievement the focus of the NGA. As governor, I have made education the focus of this administration.
Ensuring that young men and women graduate from our schools able to read and write, do math, work with computers, and be successful in life is the most important thing we are endeavoring to do in Delaware and in America. The future of our youth literally depends on us.
When talk first began in Delaware six years ago about education reforms based on rigorous academic standards in math, science, English and social studies, a lot of people figured that this idea -- like most education fads -- would simply fade away. It did not. When talk then began of developing high-stakes tests to measure student progress toward meeting rigorous academic standards, a lot of people said those tests would never be given. They were mistaken.
And finally, a lot of people never believed we would put in place an accountability system that provides real consequences -- positive and negative -- for students, schools, and school districts. We have.
Beginning with the start of the school year this coming September, the rubber really hits the road. A new era of accountability in education begins in Delaware.
In the spring of 2000, students in grades 3, 5, 8, and 10 will take challenging tests -- called assessments -- in reading, writing, and math. Students in grades 3 and 5, whose reading comprehension tests well below our standard, must attend summer school and hone their reading skills. Students whose reading skills improve sufficiently will move on to the next grade. Those who dont will repeat the same grade with a curriculum that focuses on reading.
Similar requirements apply to both reading and math in the 8th and 10th grades. The focus on these two subjects is critical because, beginning with the class of 2002 -- this years freshmen -- Delaware students must demonstrate that they have mastered our rigorous standards in order to receive a high school diploma. If they fail to meet Delaware standards in reading or math by the end of the 12th grade, they may attend commencement exercises with the class of 2002. They may even receive a certificate of completion. But let me be clear: those students will not receive a diploma from the State of Delaware.
Schools and districts will also be held accountable. The test scores from 1998 and 1999 will be used to establish baselines. Two years from this spring -- in 2001 -- schools whose students show significant improvement will be rewarded with public recognition and monetary awards.
Conversely, schools whose students show no improvement or a decline face the loss of state accreditation and the wrath of parents.
We haven't chosen this path to be mean-spirited or hard-hearted. We've chosen this path because it has succeeded in raising student achievement in other states, and it will help to raise student achievement in Delaware, too.
The assessments given last spring to 3rd, 5th, 8th, and 10th graders do more than show how our students measure up to Delaware standards. A separate section of each test also shows how some 40,000 of our students measure up to their counterparts across the country in reading and in math. Those results indicate that our students are -- by and large -- average. Let me say again today, as I have said many times before: average is not good enough for Delaware.
If we want Delawareans to continue to enjoy a high standard of living in the next century, it wont be because our schools turn out students with average skills. It will be because our schools graduate students with skills that will enable them and their employers to be successful in a rapidly changing, more challenging world. It is our job to make sure that students gain those skills. I want to ask each of you here today to join me in renewing our pledge to do what it takes to ensure that our students succeed.
As many of you know, our two children attend public schools. Martha and I believe they are receiving an excellent education. Were proud of our sons and we have every reason to believe that they will be able to meet Delaware's academic standards. But, its important to us - and I know to you -- that all Delaware students have a real chance to meet those standards.
Toward that goal, we must continue to make extraordinary investments in kids' lives -- not just after they enter our schools, but in the critical, formative years before they reach kindergarten.
Thanks to the consistent bipartisan support of both this House and Senate, we are combating teenage pregnancy, providing home visits for all first-time moms, and offering parenting training that includes parents on welfare and in our prisons, too. We've dramatically expanded the availability of childcare for kids whose parents must work, and weve made it possible for all four-year-olds who live in poverty to participate in a Head Start program.
To help kids be successful once they get to school, we've provided additional teachers to lower class size. We have funded an extra 20 instructional days for one out of three students between kindergarten and grade 12.
To better ensure that students gain the computer skills theyll need, a few months ago Delaware became the first state in the nation to wire every public school classroom with access to the Internet. We have allocated 13 million extra dollars to attach computers to those wires. Teachers are being trained to use this new technology to make learning more relevant for a generation of youngsters more comfortable holding a joystick than playing stickball.
On top of all that, scores of Delaware employers have adopted schools and are providing mentors in those schools. This week, close to 10,000 mentors will work with students to help them meet our high standards. And you know what? Those individual, personal efforts are paying off. Among most students with mentors, academic performance and attendance are up. Disruptive behavior and absenteeism are down.
Finally, weve introduced competition into our public schools through public school choice and charter schools. Fully 10 percent of Delaware students -- the highest percentage of any state -- now exercise that choice.
In addition, growing numbers of Delaware students are enrolling in Delawares public charter schools. There, real school-based decision making is unleashing innovation and energy too rarely found in other schools -- public or private. As a result, more charter schools are on the way.
We have laid a solid foundation. It is time to build on that foundation and finish the job weve begun. What remains to be done?
School reforms wont be effective in classrooms that are too disruptive for teachers to teach and students to learn. To help create disciplined classroom environments, we've initiated disruption prevention programs in every Delaware public school. We've created alternative learning centers for chronically disruptive students in each of our counties. Many elementary schools now have family crisis therapists, and a growing number of high schools have a school resource officer -- a state cop in plain clothes who is trained specifically to work with teens.
It hasnt been enough. This year, I will propose to increase by 50 percent what we currently spend on discipline. We are awaiting the results of an evaluation of our existing discipline programs -- to find out whats working well and whats not. With that information, I want us to expand -- statewide -- those programs that are successful at creating classrooms conducive to learning.
Too often, we hear that some children are not successful because schools cannot overcome the negative impact of society. Current research disputes that, showing that teacher qualifications and class size together can have as great an impact on student achievement as poverty, race, and parent education combined. Make no mistake about it - the success of education reform hinges on the quality of our teachers.
Thousands of dedicated teachers work in our schools every day. Each year, we add hundreds of new teachers to those ranks. Their skills are critical to the success of our students.
I believe that our efforts to reform education in Delaware hinge, in large part, on our ability to recruit and retain highly skilled, competent teachers. Toward that goal, I propose to adopt the recommendations of the Teacher Salary Schedule Improvement Committee, ably chaired over the last six months by Dr. Joe Pika. Among those recommendations are the following ones:
First, make salaries more competitive with others in our region - a 13 percent increase in pay for teachers in the first three years, with a four percent increase to more experienced teachers.
Second, encourage focused, career-long professional development for all teachers in three ways: 1) by phasing in five additional, paid work days over the next three years; 2) by compensating teachers for enhanced skills and knowledge; and 3) by paying more to teachers who work extra hours as academic leaders.
As we enhance compensation and work to provide quality professional development, we also must put in place policies that ensure high standards for becoming and remaining a teacher in Delaware. Education Secretary Iris Metts and I will propose a plan for professional growth and accountability of our teachers.
First, and perhaps most importantly, we will propose -- for the first time -- to link teacher appraisal to student achievement. I believe a significant portion of a teachers evaluation should be based on how effective that teacher is in helping children to learn. We will propose that at least 20 percent of a teachers evaluation be based on student performance, along with 30 percent of an administrators evaluation -- percentages that are among the highest of any state in America.
Secondly, we will propose to make it more challenging to earn a certificate to teach in Delaware. Applicants will be required to pass a national exam that measures mastery of content knowledge and how to teach that content. New teachers also will serve an induction period under the mentorship of an experienced teacher and must earn satisfactory appraisals that include evidence of improved student performance.
Third, we will propose to initiate a re-certification process to ensure that our teachers update and renew their skills. Recertification will require ongoing professional development, combined with successful performance appraisals that are linked to student achievement.
If a teacher receives unsatisfactory evaluations, every effort will be made to improve that teachers skills. If, despite appropriate intervention, a teacher continues to receive unsatisfactory evaluations, that teacher will face the loss of his/her license to teach in Delaware. We have a responsibility to better equip teachers with the skills to enable them to be effective in Delaware classrooms. We also have the responsibility to ensure that every child has an effective teacher in their classroom.
These teacher compensation and professional accountability plans make clear once again that education reform is not a passing fad. The course to which we are committed is a marathon -- not a sprint. Our kids futures are at stake. So is the economic vitality of Delaware in the 21st century. Delawares children deserve nothing less than the best education our state can offer. The responsibility to make that a reality for them rests with us.
As I come to a close today, let me say that in spite of all that weve accomplished, Im always struck by how much work there is left to do. And it occurs to me that the reason is pretty simple: to stay ahead, we must keep moving forward.
I am proud of the record that our Administration and this legislature -- working with people throughout Delaware -- have put together over the past six years. Our collective leadership has prepared this state well for a new century. Our economy is strong. Taxes are lower. Crime is decreasing. Health care is increasing. Our schools are getting better. Our environment is getting cleaner.
Many challenges await us, of course -- some of which I have outlined here today. Let us dedicate ourselves to meeting those challenges with the same energy and enthusiasm, the same bipartisan spirit of cooperation, that has been our recipe for success these past six years.
Let the governor and legislature who are preparing to greet another new century, 100 years from now, say of us: they saw their future and reached out to embrace it.
Thank you very much!