An Update on Stretch Targets for Wisconsin

submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by John Bonsett-Veal

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Dave Baskerville and Club President Donna Hurd

Fellow Rotarian Dave Baskerville spoke to Rotarians and guests about “Stretch Targets for Wisconsin,” an effort he heads dedicated to the proposition that this state can do much better economically than it has for the past forty years. It must set targets for ten years ahead and work to achieve them, just as new or struggling businesses do. Dave emphasized two areas: The economy and education. First he compared trends in Wisconsin to what has been happening in Minnesota. Thirty-eight years ago, the two states were virtually equivalent economically. In the years since, Minnesota has done far better in various important economic statistics, especially job growth and average wage growth. One difficulty, as both Dave and questioner Marv Levy pointed out, is that Wisconsin has had a hard time retaining its formerly great businesses, either because they relocate or the industry atrophies; and, as Dave indicated, Wisconsin has done a poor job of attracting new ones.

Education is an important element in this story. In math, science, and reading, the U.S. ranks 36th among the nations of the world; Wisconsin is better, but can do better. A goal would be to equal such national performers as Singapore, Japan, or Canada by 2038. Dave argued that it can be done, just as nations have arisen from destructive wars to become leaders. In 1993, Massachusetts and Wisconsin were about equal in achievement rates. Now, Massachusetts is in the top ten. It succeeded by establishing rigorous goals for teachers and students. Today, the poor in Massachusetts have the highest wages in the country. There are several schools in Milwaukee that have demonstrated great success despite the prevailing poverty of its children, including one high school that was rated the best in the country by US News.

Success in these Stretch goals can lead to progress in job skills, social mobility and justice, and national security. Wisconsin has great resources and people, and these have to be mobilized. The state’s white high school students currently rank 41st in reading, and its black students rate 49th. The state ranks 40th in average wages. But just as Vince Lombardi transformed the lowly 1958 Packers into the powerhouse teams of the 1960s, Wisconsin can achieve great things by setting goals and working to meet them.

Our thanks to WisconsinEye for videotaping our meeting this week, and you can watch the video here.

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