Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Association of Washington School Principals/Washington Association of School Administrators Annual Conference
June 27, 2000
Gary Kipp, thank you for that kind introduction. I'm honored that you invited me to address your conference again this year, because I believe the role of principals and district administrators is absolutely vital in ensuring we have the kind of schools we need to get all kids up to our tougher academic standards. And I know you share that goal with me. I can see it in all that you do -- and you do so much -- to make sure that no child is left behind.
Last session, we got much closer to achieving that goal. We created a "Better Schools" program to provide flexible funding so local schools can cut class sizes and provide more extended learning programs.
And we were able to amend I-601. So now, significant new funding will be available for school construction. This means $138 million in new school construction in fiscal year 2001 and more than half a billion dollars in fiscal years 2001-2003. And the previous session, we secured $14 million for school safety, and this session we added a couple of million more for security. And we're going to keep going because if even one child is left behind, we will have failed.
Given the increased expectations and accountability associated with our state's continuing education reform efforts, leadership in education is more important now than ever before. Today's principals and administrators are required to be so much more than managers. You are leaders of performance-based systems. You are instructional leaders who must unify school staff and communities around a clear vision of teaching and learning and shared goals for student success. And these days, you are called upon to be more strategic and creative in the allocation and use of resources than ever before.
Professor Jeff Fouts from Seattle Pacific University said that Washington school principals believe lack of leadership and vision are the most significant barriers to the implementation of education reform in the state of Washington. As governor, I want to ensure that the state provides principals and administrators with the training, support and resources needed to meet the tough challenges they face.
For instance, we must do a better job of recruiting future education leaders, and in providing them solid, relevant training that will prepare them for the challenges they will face. That's why I have supported, and will continue to support, the administrator internship program. I'd also like to find ways to provide better mentoring programs for new principals.
We've already got some excellent programs in place. For instance, The Gates Foundation has started a new program of "teacher training grants" to train teachers on how to integrate technology in the classrooms and across the curriculum. The Gates Foundation will reach 1,000 teachers in our schools through this program. And those teachers can come back and teach the other teachers in their schools.
The University of Washington has partnered with the Technology Alliance - a group of high-tech executives - to establish "Smart Tools Academy." This program wants to ensure that all Washington principals and superintendents share a vision and an understanding of the way technology can support and improve student learning and academic achievement. So far, more than 1,800 principals and superintendents have participated in this fantastic program.
Our new Washington Professional Educator Standards Board will also provide a strong backbone of leadership. I pushed for this board because if Washington is going to set and uphold the highest standards for education professionals in the nation, it better be the professionals themselves at the helm, crafting the changes we need to make. This 19-member board will be made up of some of our finest educators, including principals and administrators. They will tell state policy makers what our principals and administrators need to unleash the potential in our schools, in our classrooms and in our kids.
One thing we know our district leaders and principals need, if you are to unleash that potential, is more flexibility and freedom from rules and regulations. We need to cut through the red tape, to cut back the reams of paper compliance that hold our leaders back so you can engage your own innovative and effective ways to run our schools and districts. Our principals need greater decision-making authority over staffing and in the management of their own budgets.
I have proposed and will continue to propose opportunity school districts to allow schools greater flexibility in how you manage your resources and provide education to enable all students to reach our high standards. Please work with me to find ways to provide that flexibility at the state and local level.
But we all know that getting all of our students to reach tough academic standards will take more than strong leadership and freedom from regulation. It also takes time, attention and money. Every child can and should achieve higher academic standards -- but we must provide them with the time and attention they need to get there.
And in this day and age, time and attention cost money. That's why, with advice and guidance from superintendents and administrators statewide, I proposed the Learning Improvement Property Tax Credit last session. The papers accused me of uncharacteristically expending political capital in support of that plan. And they were right. I would have gone door-to-door for that one, if I could have. If my proposal had passed, it would have meant significant new investment in our schools.
School districts would have been able to decide for themselves how best to use that money to enhance student learning. They could have used it to make class sizes smaller, or have a longer school day, or an after school chemistry club, for early childhood education, professional development or whatever each individual district thought would be best for their specific community. The Legislature approved a similar, smaller measure, but additional resources are still needed.
That's why I am supporting I-728, the K-12 2000 initiative. As many of you know, this initiative would provide $450 per student for additional attention for kids and professional development for educators. I encourage you to get out there and sign this initiative. It's got to get on the ballot, and we've got to vote for it.
I remember how proud I was when we got the Promise Scholarship program approved last year. When all of our students get the attention they need, more and more of them will meet the standards and we can send them to college on Promise Scholarships. Students need to have the incentive to work hard, and the Promise Scholarship provides that incentive.
It tells our kids that their family's finances will not deny an excelling child the opportunity to achieve the American Dream of a college education. It tells our kids that if they succeed, we are behind them and will help them succeed even more. I want to thank you for your support of this successful program. I will continue to work on legislation that will link Promise Scholarships to the Certificate of Mastery.
Long before children can qualify for Promise Scholarships, however, they must be well prepared to learn. So I am pushing forward with early childhood development education, an increasingly valuable tool in helping children maximize their full potential in life. Children need a foundation that we can build upon when they arrive at our school doors that first day of kindergarten.
I know from watching Emily and Dylan, that the rate at which young children learn is absolutely astonishing. You can see it in their faces, taking it all in. Sometimes I feel like I'm watching one of those National Geographic specials where they speed up the development of a lily, only the brain growth going on in those kids isn't sped up, it's real time. So we must do all we can to stimulate these young minds -- to encourage curiosity, to instill the joy of reading, and to nurture confidence.
Earlier this month, my wife Mona and Melinda Gates, co-chairs of our Early Learning Commission, announced the formation of The Washington Early Learning Foundation, which will continue the work of the Commission. The Foundation will work with parents and caregivers to help every child in Washington go to school eager to learn and ready to succeed. The focus of the foundation will be on improving the quality of child care, increasing the accessibility and quality of parent education, and providing resources and information to parents and caregivers on the importance of brain development of children from birth to age five.
Perhaps the most fundamental element of effective early leaning is reading. As time goes by, it only becomes more important. So, as we reach out to communities and educate parents and educators, we also ask community members into our schools to tutor struggling readers. And I'm proud that in so many communities, real partnerships have formed between schools and citizens.
Over the last two years, the Washington Reading Corps has brought more than 12,000 community volunteers each year into our schools to tutor more than 23,000 struggling readers. Test scores in Reading Corps schools have risen at nearly twice the rate of other schools. So we know it's working.
But many schools and district administrators have told me that the Reading Corps has also had a huge impact on the relationship between schools and the communities they serve. That as citizens enter the schools, and see what's going on behind those doors, they begin to understand the need for more funding and crucial levies have passed due to this understanding.
Conversely, as parents and older children come into schools to help, you, too, forge relationships with them and a better understanding of our society today, and the increasingly complex issues kids bring to school with them every day. Not the least of which is the issue of school safety. Those concerns continue to loom large in the minds of parents and community members.
Helping all of our students reach high standards will ensure they have a safe and civil environment where learning can occur. Over the past two years, I have proposed, and the Legislature has supported, significant new investments in school safety. But we must do more to get to the underlying causes and catalysts of violence. We must not tolerate bullying and harassment of students or educators. We must support schools and districts in developing comprehensive plans for preventing, and if necessary, responding to threats to the safety of our children and educators.
Why all my attention to education? You've heard me say this so many times you can probably say it along with me. But I truly believe that education is the great equalizer that makes hope and opportunity possible. It is the vehicle that can take us as far as we want to go.
I believe education is the key because what's in our brains is the most valuable asset of all. What's in our brains is the new economy's most important form of capital. It's no longer raw materials, or even money, that new businesses need most. They need smart, well-educated people with new ideas. So what's in our brains is the critical source of our future prosperity.
But it's more than that. What's in our brains is what will lead us to a higher quality of life all around. With a good education, our children will learn to take care of themselves, their families and the earth. They will learn how to use the unfathomable information of the future for good, not bad. That's why education is, and will always remain, my number-one priority.
And that's why the people in this room are some of the most important people in our society. I know most of you didn't get into this business for the money. It's always been a labor of love -- a love of kids and a love of education. And it warms my heart to be in a room full of people who put our kids first.
So thank you. Thank you for everything you do to make Washington a better place to live, work, and raise a family.