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May 20, 2004

Message from the Governor

“A job, a better job, a better life.” This is the goal of Washington WorkFirst, our state’s welfare-to-work strategy.

Gov. Locke, Dr. Sylvia Mundy, Marshall's Store representative Felice Dominguez, Juli Wilkerson, and Seattle Chamber's Herman McKinney

Washington initiated the WorkFirst program in August 1997 to help low-income families become self-sufficient by providing training and support services necessary for parents to get a job, keep a job and move up a career ladder. WorkFirst is an incredible success story. The numbers tell the story:

  • More than 140,000 parents helped off welfare
  • The lowest welfare rate for our state in more than 30 years, with less than 2.3 percent of our state's population receiving welfare grants
  • State spending on welfare grants cut by a third
  • A 42 percent drop in the number of families on welfare since 1997
These are very impressive results. But WorkFirst goes well beyond just getting people off welfare. And we’re seeing long-term trends that prove this approach is working.
Quote of the Week
“Instead of perpetuating the poverty cycle, we are breaking it. Instead of encouraging people to stay on welfare, we're helping people escape welfare to become contributors to our economy.”
—Governor Locke, May 18, 2004

A recent Office of Financial Management report highlighted changes in Washington families’ income during the 1990s. The findings are based on census data, and show that we've turned things around in our state for the people WorkFirst serves.

For example, the overall median family income in Washington increased 11.4 percent in the 1990s. But female-headed families with children had the greatest increase in median family income—31.5 percent.

The overall poverty rate in our state didn't change much during the 1990s, dropping slightly from 13.7 percent to 13.3 percent. But the percentage of women with children in poverty declined dramatically—21.3 percent.

Finally, the OFM report found that female-headed families with children showed the most dramatic change in the source of their income during the 1990s. Public assistance dropped from 22.1 percent of family income to 8.2 percent for this group. That's a 66 percent reduction.

Such significant changes in income levels, poverty rates, and public assistance dependence are proof that our welfare reform efforts are making life much better for thousands of Washington families.

This week we honored 73 businesses that have been vital contributors to this success. These businesses have helped write success stories that make us proud.

Success stories like Sergey Datskiy. He came to America as a refugee from the Ukraine with his wife and eight children. He worked hard, earning up to $11 per hour. But with such a large family, that just wasn’t enough for him to leave assistance. Then he completed a pipe-welding program at Bellingham Technical College. Dakota Creek Industries hired Sergey and he now earns $18.25 an hour. He was recently able to buy a home.

WorkFirst is an outstanding example of the partnership approach at its best. The program brings business, government, education and people in need together. Everyone wins.

Gary Locke
Gary Locke

Governor's Priorities
News Highlights

Brown v. Board of Education—40 Years Later
May 17 marked the 50th anniversary of the historic Brown v. Board of Education decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. Governor Locke issued the following statement on the anniversary of this landmark decision: “Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka is obviously one of the most important U.S. Supreme Court decisions of the 20th century. The decision has served as the foundation for protection against institutionalized racism in public schools. Its significance as a turning point in America runs even deeper. Brown recognized the complexity of racism and the profoundly permanent effects of segregation on minority students—what Thurgood Marshall referred to as the ‘badge of inferiority.’

“The battles have changed since Brown, but the stakes are the same and they are very high. Equality in public education is a birthright. Opportunity to achieve is a fundamental part of that right. Continuing our efforts to close this achievement gap is a fundamental duty associated with that same right. Just as Brown made historic progress 50 years ago, today we have an important opportunity—and a moral responsibility—to advance the cause of equality in our schools. Brown is a lasting testament to the power of justice and individual responsibility in a democracy.”

Providing the Gift of Education
Governor Locke awarded Washington State Governor’s Scholarships to 28 children in foster care at a ceremony on May 14. The Governor established the scholarship program in 2001 to help children in state-recognized foster, group and kinship care enroll in and complete college in Washington state. “A college education is part of the American dream. Every young person, including students leaving foster care, deserves the real chance to have this dream come true,” the Governor told the recipients. “You’ve worked hard and seized opportunities. Congratulations on coming this far, and keep going until you reach your dreams.”

Gov. Locke and Scholarship Recipient Peter Deng

No state money is used to fund the Governor’s Scholarship program. It is funded by proceeds from the annual Governor’s Cup Charity Golf Tournament and a statewide carwash event organized by Families for Kids (a branch of Lutheran Community Services). To date, the golf tournaments and carwash events have raised more than $800,000 for scholarship awards. Fifty-five students applied for the Governor’s Scholarship Program this year. Additional eligibility criteria can be found on the Washington Education Foundation’s Web site at

Recognizing Super State Employees
Governor Locke recently presented the Governor’s Distinguished Management Leadership Award to 16 state employees who demonstrated outstanding management excellence this past year. The Governor also recognized an additional 11 managers with the Sustaining Leadership Award for their continuing exceptional leadership. “You have each been asked to meet rising demands with diminishing resources. The people of Washington depend on you and all of our state employees, every single day,” the Governor told recipients during an awards luncheon at the Governor's Mansion. “You've shown innovation and dedication and you’ve inspired and encouraged others to follow your example.” Established in 1985, both awards recognize state government managers for their leadership, customer and market focus, information and analysis, human resource development and management, process management and business results. A complete list of winners can be found on the Governor’s Web site.

Native Plant Appreciation Week
Governor Locke has declared the week of May 24-30, 2004, as Native Plant Appreciation Week in Washington. This week is a time to celebrate the rich diversity of Washington’s over 3000 native plant species and of the native ecosystems that are so important to sustaining the quality of Washington’s environment. A host of activities ranging from educational plant walks and natural area visits to habitat restoration projects are planned across the state during the week. Find out about activities in your area at

Success Story: Washington State Government Tops the Rankings
The Washington, D.C.-based National Policy Research Council has ranked Washington state number one in Government and number five overall in its publication, “America’s Best Cities & States: The Annual Gold Guide to Leading Rankings.” The guide, which combines more than 150 rankings of cities and states, also ranked Washington third in Economic Dynamism - a category that analyzes the competitiveness and performance of a state’s economy - and fourth in Technology. “It’s great news that our state has been recognized nationally, yet again, for our many innovative programs,” the Governor said. “I’m especially proud of our leadership in digital government and the improvements we’ve made to better connect our citizens with their government. We have won numerous national awards for the services we provide online, and have been named ‘the most digital state government’ in the country.” In addition to its own ranking system, the guide is a compendium of rankings published by leading American institutions. Visit the National Policy Research Council Web site for more information and the complete rankings.

Upcoming Events
5/21: Reading School of the Month, Bellevue
5/21: News Conference on Clean Fuel Initiatives, Seattle
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