Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Federal Way Town Hall Meeting
January 31, 2000
Thank you, it's great to be here in Federal Way. Thank you Tom Murphy, for that kind introduction. You're going to make a real difference in this district, especially with this great staff. Can the members of the school board please stand up so we can see who you are? Let's give these folks-voted 1999 School Board of the Year-a round of applause.
Victoria Bergsagel and Sarah Rich thanks for your hard work to make tonight a reality. Sarah left my office to come to Federal Way. We miss her, but you're lucky to have her.
Finally, I'd like to thank the award-winning Federal Way High School Debate students who will be assisting us with roving microphones tonight.
Tonight I'm here to talk to you parent to parent.
We're well into our session down in Olympia. The expectation was that we would get together, figure out how to respond to the funding crunch caused by Initiative 695, and go home. But a profound opportunity faces us, right now. The opportunity to make a profound change in the way we educate our children. And we consequently have a responsibility to do so.
Our goal is to build a seamless, high quality education system. A system so tight that not a single child will fall through the cracks. We're coming at this from every angle. We're testing our 4th, 7th & 10th graders. If a child falls behind in her reading scores-she gets one-on-one tutoring in our Reading Corps until she gets up to speed. And if a high school senior scores in the top 15% of her class, we send her to college on a Promise Scholarship. That's what accountability is all about. If our kids don't meet the standards, we give them extra attention to get them up to speed. When they do meet the standards, we reward them with a college education.
In fact, we have a Promise Scholar with us today…a graduate of Federal High! Let's hear it for Rachel Wolf! Thanks, Rachel, and thanks to the whole Wolf family for joining us tonight. I'm sure some of the parents here will be interested in talking to you during the reception.
In our lives, every day, we perform juggling acts of the things our families need today-the scheduling of dentist appointments and the stop at the store for a gallon of milk in one hand. . .and the things they will need tomorrow, in the other hand-baseball uniforms, ballet shoes, braces…clarinets, computers, college.... But that ball up there in the air…the one we hope we can catch…that third ball of the juggle-is ensuring that when our kids aren't with us. . .before school, after school. . .in their classrooms. . . their needs are being met. And that's what we're gathered here to talk about today.
In December, I submitted my budget proposal to the people of Washington. And at the heart of that proposal is my Learning Improvement Plan-a plan to increase the individual attention our children get every day at school.
What my Learning Improvement Plan is all about is creating for our teachers…the people who are with our children for more hours a day than we are, in many cases….creating for our teachers an environment in which they can not only cover the basics, but also have the energy, creativity and time to really stimulate the minds of our children.
Our elementary school teachers are faced with single-handed care of up to 30 to 33 children per classroom. Imagine 30 six-year-olds. And each and every one of those six-year olds needs to learn how to read. Period. If they don't learn how to read, they will not be able to follow any of the lessons in the coming years. It will be a blow they will never recover from.
But how are our teachers supposed to be mentors, problem solvers, roll models for our children if they have less than 15 minutes a day per child?
We're learning the beautiful rewards of individual attention with our Washington Reading Corps program.
Volunteers in the community are entering schools to tutor struggling students one-on-one. At Mirror Lake, the Reading Corps has its own room, and each table has a backdrop with a theme. So you can read in a forest, or on a beach or in a little garden…it's really something. But anyway…the point is. . . reading scores in Reading Corps schools are going up at almost twice the rate of other schools. And that teaches us something profound about individual attention.
Here in Federal Way we've got 211 volunteers in 4 elementary schools and tutoring 478 struggling readers. And you could be one of those tutors! AmeriCorps volunteer Denise Haberly with us today-Denise, will you stand up? So talk to her tonight about volunteering and helping our kids one kid at a time.
Marcus James and his tutor Maria are also with us today from Sunnycrest Elementary. When Marcus entered the Reading Corps, he hadn't been successful learning reading in the big classroom and he was falling behind. But then with individual attention from Maria, Marcus became an expert. Marcus always used to ask for toys for Christmas. Do you want to know what he asked for this year? Books. Harry Potter books. Thanks for coming tonight, Marcus. I brought you a book to add to your library.
For many children, struggling with reading is the first "failure" they encounter in their lives. But if we teach them how to jump that first hurdle, they will learn not only how to read, but also how to overcome a failure-how to keep trying. And we can turn a potentially life-long "failure" into their first "success."
You know our children shouldn't have to leave the classroom to get the attention they need. They should get that attention IN THE CLASSROOM!
Think for a moment back to our own childhoods…Can you remember someone taking an individual interest in you? I know for me, it was when my Scout Leader took me aside and taught me how to build a fire with just one match. And I bet most of you can recall an adult role model who gave you special attention-and that that special attention changed the course of your lives.
What do you want to hear when you ask your kids how their day was at school? Do you want to hear that so-and-so got in trouble and there were corn dogs for lunch, or do you want to hear that they started on a great new science project where kids use math, writing, internet access-wouldn't you rather hear them enthused and excited about what they are doing at school?
We know our kids shine brighter when they get individual attention. Isn't that why we do everything we can to eke out more quality time with our children? We already know in our hearts and in our homes that children thrive on individual attention. Now let's know it in our heads. . . and in our schools.
Some say we just can't afford to invest in class size reduction right now. I ask you…how can we afford not to? Folks, we've got one of the highest per capita incomes in the country and yet only two states have classrooms that are more crowded than our classrooms.
The Learning Improvement Plan honors the I-601 state spending limit, and most importantly, it honors the hundreds of thousands of children in our state.
The Learning Improvement Plan allows local communities to keep more of the taxes they now send to Olympia. We're not talking about raising taxes one cent. The school districts can choose between several options of how to best use this money to increase the amount of individual attention our kids get. The districts may decide to use this money to reduce class sizes. Or to expand their facilities to accommodate smaller class sizes in the future. Or they may decide to create before and after school programs, or summer school programs, or even a longer school year. Maybe an early morning math madness jubilee or an after school chemistry clique. Or a summer outdoor classroom, where kids learn geometry by measuring out triangles and quadrangles between trees. Whatever it takes to get our kids enthused about learning…
So call your legislators. Tell them to vote YES on the Learning Improvement Plan. Because remember….education isn't preparation for life. Education is life. And this is the next step we need to take as we continue on our path to creating academic excellence.
And I ask you… parent to parent …why not? We can do something really significant here, or we can make minor adjustments and tweaks. We want the best for our kids. Let's stop talking about it, and do something about it.
Thank you very much.