Grassroots organizer addresses Wisconsin's future at Rotary Club

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Ryan Silvola/Beloit Daily News Dave Baskerville speaks to the Rotary Club of Beloit on Tuesday about his grassroots movement, Stretch Targets. The movement seeks to improve the educational system and economy in Wisconsin.

BELOIT - Long-term goals, or stretch targets, are what grassroots movement organizer Dave Baskerville believes will help improve the quality of life in Wisconsin.

He spoke at the Rotary Club of Beloit on Tuesday about his nonpartisan movement called Stretch Targets. Baskerville hopes to address Wisconsin's most serious problems: an economy that since 1980 has been growing more slowly than the rest of the nation and a K-12 education system that has been performing well below the rest of the world for at least two generations.

For the last year and a half, Baskerville has been focusing on his movement to persuade state and local leaders for a commitment to the movement's two goals: A 10 percent per capita income above Minnesota by 2037 and a global top 10 education ranking for the Wisconsin's 15-year-olds in math, science and reading by 2037.

Baskerville is releasing a scorecard twice a year that is meant to track progress in a way the average citizen can understand. He said more than 400 members have signed up to receive the scorecard. So far, it is mostly from officials and politicians from both sides of the aisle.

"We don't really acknowledge these are long-term issues," Baskerville said. "People are frustrated...if you're frustrated and have a goal out there that one can understand and track, then you're channeling some of that frustration in a way that's positive."

He said often he is met with puzzled looks when he asks school board members about their strategies. When talking to groups across the state, Baskerville said he's finding that people are receiving reports about the state's economy and educational system they cannot understand.

Over the last 37 years, Minnesota's economy has surpassed Wisconsin's. He said the two states likely compete for the same applicants and are similar demographically. In 1980, Minnesota surpassed Wisconsin in per capita income for the first time. Today, Minnesota is ranked 13th in terms of per capita income in the nation and generates $4,900 per capita more than Wisconsin, which is ranked number 24.

He said that though Wisconsin may be ranked number 8 in reading in the United States, the United States is ranked number 21 out of all the countries in the world. Baskerville noted Wisconsin kids are competing with students not just across the state, but against students across the nation and world.

"We need a grassroots organization that says we're not happy with the educational system in Wisconsin," Baskerville said.

Baskerville said he's not an politician, economist, educator or activist. He is a native of Madison who spent more than 40 years in international business.

For more information on the movement, go to StretchTargets.org.

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