Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Snohomish SchoolWork Initiative
June 27, 1997

I’ve been looking forward to this occasion ever since I read the brochure about the Economic Investment Plan for Snohomish County.

That plan was the genesis of the project we’re here to celebrate.

And the brochure says that "Children need every opportunity to acquire basic skills and world-class competencies.

Adults need continual, convenient opportunities to re-educate and retrain themselves to be productive with the rapidly changing tools, technologies, and knowledge of the workplace.

Business and educational institutions must continually communicate and change curriculum and techniques if our children and our workforce are to thrive."

That was written in 1993, but it sounds a lot like one of my campaign speeches from last year.

Since 1993, you have made important strides towards achieving the goal of providing world-class education for young people, and helping them become lifetime learners.

And you have done it in the only way that it can be done: by creating strong partnerships between schools, business, labor, and your communities.

So let’s thank all the teachers for the extra time and effort they’ve invested to integrate academic and vocational curriculum.

And let’s thank all the business leaders who recognized that schools can’t do it alone, and that businesses bear part of the responsibility for creating and sustaining a world-class education system.

The communities that support these 18 school districts also deserve special recognition for having the foresight to embrace change in our schools rather than clinging to the past.

That willingness to reach beyond the bounds of the familiar and the comfortable will make a huge and positive difference in the lives of thousands of children.

That’s why, as governor, I want to showcase efforts like yours.

And I want to challenge all of you to play a leadership role in showing other communities how to do what you have done.

I support the creation of a school-to-work transition system throughout our state because the link between education and economic success is simply too important to ignore.

All students need to focus on their future.

They need to know that how hard they work in school will determine how well they do in life after school.

And they need to be taught that they can do and be anything they choose if they’re willing to apply themselves and work hard.

When I was King County Executive, I heard firsthand from teachers and students who participated in school-to-work programs.

The teachers reported that spending time in local businesses really opened their eyes to the skills that businesses need, and helped them make their lessons more relevant to the real world.

And the students said that when they spent time in workplaces, all the nagging about doing their homework and all their teachers’ prodding to work hard finally made sense.

For the first time, they could see why working hard in school was important, and how the skills they were learning would be useful to them in adult life.

It really makes you wonder why we waited so long to do this.

Connecting what students learn in the classroom and how they will use that knowledge in the workplace is common sense.

And giving both students and teachers more opportunities to learn about and experience the world of work is the most sensible way to link learning and working.

School-to-work programs and partnerships are essential to our broader effort to create an education system that prepares all students to compete and win in the economy of the 21st century.

But as you all know, successful school-to-work programs are just one piece of a larger puzzle.

And the larger puzzle is a system of lifelong learning.

My vision for education is a vision of that larger system – a system in which everybody learns, everywhere, and every day.

I want to foster a culture that supports learning as a way of life.

And I want to engage every sector of our society in this work.

Schools can’t do it alone.

Families and communities and business and labor all must shoulder more responsibility for making Washington a state of learning.

A state of learning is a place where everyone recognizes that our capacity to learn is our most abundant and most precious resource.

A state of learning is a place where people are fully alive, fully engaged in creating the future, and wholeheartedly open to new ideas, new technologies, and new ways of doing things.

And a state of learning is a place where people learn their way over and around the obstacles that block the path to hope, opportunity, and equality.

I want Washington to become a state of learning because in the next millennium, education will be the absolute prerequisite to sustaining our quality of life.

Education will be the engine of economic growth and prosperity.

But equally important, educated, open minds will be essential to the preservation of American democracy.

We cannot hope to fulfill the promises of our constitution unless every student learns and takes to heart the lessons of our history.

We cannot hope to solve the ever-more complex problems of our environment, or sort out the ethical dilemmas posed by new scientific advances, or manage our economy, unless all students achieve higher standards in math and science.

And we cannot possibly sustain the tradition of self-government unless all students are taught to be independent, critical thinkers.

In addition to school-to-work transition, we need to focus on the student-to-citizen transition, by teaching all children the civic values that bind this nation together.

Creating a state of learning will require a relentless focus on raising academic standards in our schools.

It will require staying the course even when our initial test scores – which are due next fall – show that many of today’s students aren’t measuring up to the new standards we’ve set.

Creating a state of learning will also require new thinking and new institutional flexibility as we prepare for the advent of the Certificate of Mastery.

The end of high school and the beginning of post-secondary education and training must somehow be merged, so that students aren’t just dumped off the end of the assembly line at the end of 12 years in public school.

All our colleges, universities and vocational training institutions must redesign themselves to serve both the young, and an adult population that learns for life.

And most important, we must make every workplace and every home a center of learning.

We must read more – and we must spend more time reading with our children.

We must all make a conscious effort to create a culture that values learning, honors students and teachers, and embraces the adventure of exploring new frontiers of knowledge.

As a governor who intends to make education my first priority in word, deed, and budget, I want to ignite a sense of excitement and possibility about our limitless capacity to learn our way to success in the coming century.

I want to build a sense of urgency, and an unstoppable momentum toward higher levels of learning in every home, in every school, and in every workplace.

This will be the central purpose of my administration.

But to succeed, I need your help.

To bring this vision to life, we have a lot of questions to answer, and a lot of changing to do.

How – and how soon -- can we make every workplace an extension of the classroom?

How can we help people learn not just workplace skills, but the higher levels of math, science, and language they’ll need to help their kids do their homework?

What does it take to persuade more employers to train their current, loyal workers to use new technologies, rather than hiring new employees?

Can we make educational seminars at Boeing available by video teleconferencing to students in schools and colleges?

Can we make seminars in schools available to people in workplaces?

And how do we really get the most out of the K-20 telecommunications system we’re in the process of creating in our state, so that any student, in any community, can learn Russian or Japanese or take advanced courses that their local school doesn’t offer?

We need our partners in the business and telecommunications community to help craft the world’s best answers to these questions.

And we need parents, communities, and the media to participate in this vital conversation about how to move lifelong learning from rhetoric to reality.

To make learning a way of life, expanding educational opportunities must become the shared purpose of teachers, students, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, business people, union members, and senior citizens.

Together, I know we can make Washington a state of learning that will be the envy of the world.

And as a new father, I am deeply convinced that our children deserve nothing less.

So once again, I congratulate all of you on the hard-won progress you are making.

And I look forward to working with you to make our best hopes become our proudest accomplishments.

Thank you.
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