Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Concilio for the Spanish Speaking
May 25, 2000

Thanks, Dr. Kedesna-Reese, for those thoughtful words.

It's great to be here. Happy Birthday Concilio for the Spanish Speaking!

I want to thank everyone in this room for the work you've done to house our farm workers, and to make sure our kids get the kind of education they need. And I'm proud to be here today, as we celebrate the local and national Latino activists who have done so much to help the community strive towards justice like Presidential Medal of Honor Recipient, Mario Obledo - a National Hero; Henry Cisnero, the first Latino mayor of a major US city; Maria Gonzalez who's going to get her degree in bilingual education and go back into our schools and make sure kids get the education they need; Joshua Alex, who has already devoted his life to fighting for civil rights; Phyllis Kenney and Margarita Prentice and all of the rest of you who are working hard to make sure that Latino youths go to school and stay in school.

I was impressed by Maria's story. I read that growing up in Wenatchee, you picked apples and cherries with your parents to help with family expenses. You had to make the choice to succeed in school. And you did. And look where you are now. Education is the great equalizer.

And that's why education is still my number one priority. We started testing our school kids a few years ago to see if they are learning what they need to learn in our schools. Latino youths scored worse on those tests than any other group of students. Which gives the Latino community a reason to demand better schools.

The fact is, schools with high proportions of Latino kids tend to be schools with high levels of poverty and high staff turnover. This makes for schools that don't serve their students well. The WASL helps expose these injustices.

These low WASL schools also tell us that we need more bilingual teachers in our schools like Maria! And we need to consider administering that test in other languages. Latino populations are soaring. And our schools need to accommodate the needs of all of our students.

We must continue the dialogue. We're not going to look the other way on this one. We're going to look it straight in the face. But our objectives are clear - high academic achievement for all of our students of all cultures, languages and backgrounds. Which is why I'm so glad to be here today with all of you who want justice and equality for and who want the best for all our children.

Thank you very much.
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