July | August 2017


New York state Sen. Carl Marcellino is The Council of State Governments’ 2015 national chair. A former science teacher and school administrator, Marcellino believes that education and workforce development go hand-in-hand, and greater partnerships between schools and businesses will help ensure students have the skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow.
By CSG Staff

How are states showing innovation in education?

“Education is a front burner issue no matter where you travel in the nation. It is critical that education policy and technology evolve with the times. Each state is different as is each school district, however an 8th grade education should mean the same thing in each state. … Working together with teachers, parents, school leaders, colleges and community business leaders, we can foster a learning environment that sets students up for success.”

A former science teacher and administrator, what do you see as the most important trends in teaching the sciences that state leaders need to consider?

“First, we have to recognize the basic fundamental that students learn differently. Our teachers need the educational background and expertise to keep all of our students engaged and enthusiastic about learning. … Using a combination of academic knowledge, technology and hands-on, real-world applications will help students embrace the sciences and understand how STEM impacts their daily lives and defines their future. The curriculum must put students on a path that leads to not just graduation, but also employment.”

What can state leaders do to help prepare students for 21st century jobs?

“Politicians need to understand that the business leaders and employers in their communities know best what kinds of candidates they want to hire. We need to listen to the people who are actually creating the jobs and use their expertise to help our schools provide students with the necessary skills and tools to succeed. I am pleased that many of our school districts are recognizing the arts, and emphasizing STEAM as well as STEM. Partnerships need to be created among the school districts, colleges and business leaders. This strategy will create symmetry between education and job training.”

What students learn in the classroom is key, but so is student learning outside the classroom. How can states foster experiential learning opportunities for students?

“Again, this comes down to encouraging partnerships and government working with our business community, colleges and technological startups to create hands-on opportunities that benefit both the student and the employer. We should be pursuing state-sponsored incentives to encourage businesses to offer internships and apprenticeships and making sure that the student gets academic credit for these real-world experiences.”

How can state leaders balance the need to support education initiatives with state budgets that have been slow to recover from the Great Recession?

“Five years ago, New York state was saddled with a multibillion dollar deficit and facing the real possibility of draconian cuts to our education programs. Since that time, we turned things completely around with fiscally responsible budgets that demonstrate spending restraint and focus on real priorities, like education. … This resulted in a record spending on education in our state. We increased school funding by $1.3 billion over last year and totaled more than $23.5 billion statewide in 2015.”

Data shows the unemployment rate for those with less than a high school diploma is 49 percent higher than the national average. What can states do to increase high school graduation rates?

“We want to attack the problem of struggling schools and make sure these identified schools are on a path towards success. … In March, we adopted a school receivership plan for schools with chronically low test scores and graduation rates. The approved plan includes a one- to two-year grace period for schools to submit a turnaround plan with the aid of the local superintendent. In the absence of progress, a receiver will be appointed. The receiver will have additional management powers and funding will be provided in order to improve the district’s overall academic performance.”

How can state leaders ensure equal access to a high-quality education for low-income and minority students?

“Every student deserves a high-quality education no matter who they are or where they call home. To accomplish this, states must adopt a school aid formula that is progressive. For example, under its 2014–15 budget, New York state provides nearly three times as much aid per pupil to high-need school districts as to low-need districts. Government must provide the school districts with the lowest fiscal capacity with the highest percentage of direct state aid. Yet it is not simply all about money. It takes knowledgeable, supportive and creative teachers to make a great school. We have to find ways to get the best teachers and administrators into these communities. These students deserve nothing less.”

How can private-sector companies play a role in promoting STEM and STEAM
education in the states?

As legislators, we need to work hand in hand with the private sector to create and expand targeted programs in workforce, economic and community development. Our priority must always focus on helping businesses become and remain successful. A thriving business will create and keep jobs that utilize the skills learned through STEM and STEAM education. They depend on a well-trained workforce and community support. It is our job to facilitate a partnership that fosters an economic stepping stone for all interested parties.”

In New York, you’ve been a champion of education and the environment. What can STEM/STEAM programs offer in the way of fostering innovation that can help preserve our nation’s natural resources?

“The strong focus on a STEM/STEAM curriculum will encourage a deeper understanding of the environment and the challenges we face in protecting it. The inclusion of arts and design in the STEM curriculum presents opportunities to incorporate new materials and production methods to reduce our footprint on the Earth. In New York, schools have installed solar panels to not only generate electricity, but they are also used to teach about photovoltaic and electricity. Working cooperatively to solve problems, and putting an emphasis on research and development will benefit our community at all levels.”

When you reflect on your year as CSG chair, what would you want your legacy to be?

“Communication is key. I have always believed that bringing diverse people together to discuss their best ideas will help coordinate the kind of programs we need to strengthen our economy. A successful combination of investment and education can create the kind of skilled workforce that can adapt and thrive in our perpetually changing world. Hopefully, we will have brought folks together and sparked conversation and ideas that will have a real impact across the country for years to come.”