Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
K-12 Budget Announcement
December 10, 1998

Good morning. It’s great to be with you today as we announce some of our proposals for the next state budget – proposals that will mean a lot to our children, our teachers, and our schools.

Maybe you’ve heard me say this before, but I’m going to say it again: education is the great equalizer. With a good education – and with a willingness to go back and get more education throughout your life – you can measure up to anybody, no matter what advantages they may have had over you.

So, as governor – and even more importantly, as a Dad – I want to make sure our teachers have the skills and the resources they need to succeed, and that our students are truly prepared for the 21st century, which is just months away. That’s why, in my proposed state budget, I have actually cut funding in other areas to free up $144 million new dollars for our grade schools, not counting general salary increases.

That’s why I’m investing millions of dollars in welfare savings in both K-12 and higher education. I believe that if we really invest in educating our children well, they won’t need welfare. But to educate our children well, we need to change. We need more first-rate teachers. We need to stop rewarding failure, and start rewarding success. We need to target assistance to the struggling students who need extra help to meet our tough new academic standards. And we need to get our teachers and our schools out from under the heavy burden of top-down rules and regulations.

That’s the agenda of my education budget proposal. I’m proposing that we match the $40 million in new federal funding with $90 million state dollars, so that our schools can hire 1,000 more teachers. I am also proposing a package of measures to help improve the quality of teaching our children receive, and to help teachers raise the standard of quality for their entire profession.

My proposals include:

- a $2.7 million to develop tests that will measure whether beginning teachers really know the subjects they will teach, and the best methods for teaching them;
- a teaching standards board that will give educators and citizens the power to establish professional standards for both teacher preparation and licensing;
- an extra $1,000 salary increase for teachers who meet advanced standards of the state teaching board, and a $3,000 raise for teachers who meet the standards of the national board for professional teaching standards. This would be in addition to general salary increases I’ll announce next week. And;
- scholarships for up to 200 outstanding teaching candidates each year in areas where we have shortages – namely math, science, and special education.

There’s one other thing I want to do for teachers and parents: I want teachers and parents to be able to tell every child that if they work hard, do their homework, and do well in school they will be able to go to college. Every student should have a clear incentive to study. Every student should be focused on a promising future.

That’s why, earlier this week, I proposed creating Washington’s Promise Scholarships – scholarships that will give the equivalent of two years worth of community college tuition to all students who pass the 10th grade student assessment. Until the 10th grade tests are fully in place, the "Promise Scholarships" will be given to the top 15 percent of each senior class, starting with this year’s senior class. These scholarships can be spent at any public or private college or university in our state. I believe the Washington’s Promise Scholarships will help turbo-charge our state’s drive to raise the academic achievement levels of our students.

I’m also proposing a radical change in our state program for children who need extra help. Currently, our Learning Assistance Program gives extra money to schools with large numbers of low-achieving students. The more low-achieving students, the more money we send for extra teachers and class room assistants. But here’s the worst thing about our state program – only after children fail do we send the extra help and as students improve, we cut of this funding.

Common sense tells us that this sends the wrong message to our schools. We shouldn’t wait until children fail before we send help, and we shouldn’t punish schools that raise academic achievement. So I propose we change this program and send these learning assistance dollars in advance to schools where we know we have students likely to fail without intervention.

We also need greater school flexibility to use both federal and state funds to do whatever our educators know will help their students succeed. So I propose to cut the strings that tie up these state dollars. And I’ve asked for waivers from the federal regulations that govern the similar national program – called Title I. We expect to be given this waiver.

But I also want to devote more resources on helping the students who need it most to make sure they won’t fail. That’s why I’m proposing an additional $52 that will translate into more teachers, special classroom assistants, or staff training. It’s time we reward schools for success. So I am also proposing a $16 million program that will give extra money to elementary and middle schools where test scores go up for three years in a row. This will be an average of $12,000 per elementary school and $25,000 per middle school. These funds will also come with no strings attached.

Teachers and principals who do outstanding work deserve this recognition, and these extra resources. And they deserve the freedom to decide how to use these funds to make a difference in their classrooms. But there’s one more thing our schools need besides more outstanding teachers, more help for struggling students, and clear incentives for success:

Our schools need relief from over-regulation. To give schools this relief, I am proposing that we give local school boards the choice of becoming "Opportunity School Districts." These will be school districts that choose to send a minimum of 75% of their funding directly to their schools, and to give principals, teachers and parents the authority to allocate those funds. These districts will be exempted from all state regulations, except those related to education reform, civil rights, health and safety, and collective bargaining.

Here in Edmonds and in other districts across the state, this new method of school-based budgeting has already proven that putting our money where our kids are makes more sense, and produces better results. These proposals will help our state make faster progress in the difficult but exciting work of focusing our schools and our resources on making a difference for every child, in every classroom.

That’s where education really happens. Every minute that a child spends in a classroom is an investment in his or her future. That’s where our students must get the education they need to succeed in the 21st century. And that’s where our teachers shape the future of our state.

Before I take questions about these proposals, I want to emphasize just one other point. Great schools aren’t just the result of sound budgets, or even of great teachers and principals. They are the products of committed parents, caring volunteers, and active communities. And that’s why I ask for your help in continuing the important work of the Washington Reading Corps.

This program, which matches tutors with kids, is ahead of expectations in this its very first year. The Washington Reading Corps has succeeded in recruiting 8,000 volunteers to help young students learn to read. An amazing array of people, from all walks of life, from retirees to teens – and even including the entire hockey team in the Tri-Cities – are giving children the individual time and attention they need to be successful readers.

But there is much more to do. We need the Reading Corps to grow to serve more struggling students – right now, before they get any further behind. So I appeal to every resident of Washington state to step up to the challenge, the joy, and the excitement of helping a child learn to read.

Thank you very much.
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