Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
PTA Convention Welcome
May 5, 2000

Rita, thank you. And to everyone in this room... thank you. I'm honored... I'm flabbergasted... I'm humbled to receive this Friends of Children Award from the people who have more hands-on knowledge about what it really happening in our schools. I'm truly humbled. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

The reason I wanted to be Governor in the first place was to create a better world for our children and the best way to do that is to create the strongest education system in the nation.

You know, when I was in school it was all about the bell curve. You always hated the kids who did really well and were grateful for the failures... just as long as there were enough of them to keep you in the average pool.

Children now enter an education system that is far safer, far better, and far more focused than what it was four years ago.

When I ran for office, I said that I would move mountains to make our education system the best in the nation. And with your help, we've accomplished a heck of a lot over these last four years.

We have tough new standards in place... and affirmation of those standards! Parents, children, and teachers are now all on the same page. We know what our children are expected to learn in math, science and reading. Semester by semester, year by year. It's all laid out. No more mysteries about what our children should be learning. These new standards weren't developed by the federal government, but by you, educators and civic leaders.

And when they excel? Can they afford to go to college if they want to? Now they can. No matter what their financial position, if they make the grade, they go on a Promise Scholarship.

We're about to start testing incoming teachers so we can rest assured that they not only know their subjects, but how to teach them.

We've got volunteers flocking to the schools to tutor our struggling readers in our Reading Corps Program.

We're bridging the gap between schools and the community... hooking up volunteers from the community with not only teachers and students, but mothers and fathers as well.

And who plays a tremendous role in making all this happen in the improvement of our schools? Our PTAs.

All of this adds up to our kids being better education, which is what we care about.

You know, early this spring, I traveled to school after school holding Town Hall meetings, talking to teachers, students, mothers, fathers, janitors, cafeteria workers, asking them to support my Learning Improvement Plan, which was all about getting more individual attention for our children.

And this legislative session, we succeeded. We secured more than a billion and a half new dollars for schools over the next five years for smaller class sizes and for school construction. But we're not finished. We've got more work to do.

Hello Initiative 728! I signed this petition the second it came off the press, and I'm sure every person in this room has signed it. Because we all know our kids need more individual attention, smaller classes and extended learning. This didn't make it through the political houses, but it will make it through our family houses. Because our schools, our communities and our families need Initiative 728. This initiative is the next crucial step on our journey to educational excellence.

With I-728, we'll start funding on a per-pupil basis, no less than 90 percent of the national average. That means we'll have about a thousand dollars more per child, per year.

With I-728, our kids will get the individual attention they deserve. We'll have smaller classes and extended learning opportunities... maybe an after-school chemistry class or an early morning foreign language.

With I-728, we can finally give our kids the things we know work... early childhood development, teacher training, Saturday classes, summer school programs. Not all kids learn at the same pace. Just because the United States has the shortest school year in the world doesn't mean that Washington has to.

Not every child finishes the race at the same time. And we're not going to leave the stadium until every kid crosses that finish line. Because we're finished with the bell curve. We're through with accepting that some kids just fail. In our state, every child will cross that finish line. No matter what it takes.

Thank you, PTA members, for endorsing this initiative. You've always been the foot soldiers in the war for our kids. I can't thank you enough. And I'm here with you to keep fighting until every child not only meets, but exceeds our standards. I know you're weary. You go to bat for our kids every day, day after day and maybe from here you can't see the vastness of your impact. But I can, and I commend you.

We must also continue to fight until teachers get paid what they deserve. Mona and I don't have to have two children to know the value of education and to know that our teachers must be rewarded properly for their unique service to all of us.

Thank you, again, for this wonderful award. I'd like to turn around and hand it to each of you in this room. Because you're the real heroes for our kids.

Let's keep working together. Let's build a society so strong that not a single child falls through the cracks... not a single dream is left unachieved... and not a single person is denied the opportunity to achieve his or her idea of the American Dream.

Building a society that strong starts right here... in the hearts and convictions of every single person in this room. So thank you for that and for everything you do to make Washington a better place to live, to work, and to raise a family.
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