Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Washington State School Directors' Association
November 15, 2001

Introduction and Recognition of Service and Volunteerism
Thank you, Bill, for that kind introduction.

I’m delighted to be here today. I’m especially pleased to be speaking to an audience made up of people who are so committed and dedicated to education. As school board members, each of you plays a critical role in helping all of our children succeed in the classroom. As volunteers, you go above and beyond, creating a nurturing learning environment for our children and cultivating excellent teachers—education’s lifeblood.

No responsibility is more meaningful or more important than teaching and nurturing our children. Nothing.

All of us are composites, a mix of the wisdom and experience of our teachers, our friends, and our families. But when families are absent, and the first-line in a child’s education is lacking, teachers fill the void. They pour a spirit of knowledge and motivation into young souls. Those children grow and hopefully mature into good citizens. They never forget. They carry the lessons. Their success is our success. Their victories hold a mirror to the dedication and commitment of good teachers.

The great American educator, Horace Mann, once said, “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” Teachers, administrators, school board members and school volunteers win victories for humanity every day.

One person who has helped teachers and thousands of school directors win victory everyday for the last 25 years is Dwayne Slate. I single him out because his last day is in just a couple of weeks. You all know Dwayne Slate -- Dwayne, could you please stand for a minute?

Dwayne has worked tirelessly during the past 25 years to improve K-12 education in Washington. As a lead staff member in both the House and Senate, he was instrumental in the passage of significant education legislation, such as the Basic Education Act of 1977, learning assistance programs for students, levy equalization, and later, education reform. He has championed the concept of the simple majority vote on levy votes --something with which I wholeheartedly agree.

In fact, one very tangible thing we can do to pay tribute to Dwayne is rid ourselves of the requirement for a super-majority. We should have a simple majority for education -- that’s fair, that’s democratic, and that’s best for our children.

Dwayne – I personally want to thank you for your extraordinary service to our children. Rest assured we will continue your efforts. But you will be missed! Let’s give him a round of applause!

September 11 – Education is more important than ever before
The tragedies of September 11th reshaped America’s political and social landscape, and marked a sea change in this country -- but it’s a sea change that sharpens our resolve and focuses our spirit.

If we want to make America stronger, we need to make each of our communities stronger -- the best they can be.

We must work with a greater intensity on the Washington State we want for our children and grandchildren. We must recommit to investing in the long-term future of our state -- which, first and foremost, is the educational future of our state.

Education in our state faces many challenges. Student populations reflect a cross section of society -- and more of society’s problems are acted out in the classroom; qualified teachers and principals are harder to find; and technology plays an increasingly significant role. But not enough know how to use technology to its full potential. And academic achievement and accountability are essential.

For these reasons, your continued service and leadership on school boards across the state is more important than ever before.

As you have heard me say many times, my number-one priority is education. My number-one goal is ensuring that all children in our state meet high academic standards.

We also know that an educated workforce is central to our economic progress as a state. Education and the economy are inner-linked—and interdependent. Boeing, Microsoft and Alaska Airlines are just some of the regional corporations saying in no uncertain terms that an educated workforce is critical to their future.

Simply put, a thriving economy with good-paying jobs for tomorrow’s workers -- our children and grandchildren -- requires a thriving education system. If we don’t invest in our schools NOW we will pay the price later in lost jobs, lost wages, and a lost quality-of-life.

Four Priorities
I have four key priorities for education:

  1. Every child will be taught in a safe and personalized learning environment.

  2. There will be an outstanding teacher in every classroom.

  3. There will be an outstanding principal in every school.

  4. All schools and districts will be held accountable for student achievement and will have the flexibility to ensure all children achieve high academic standards.

Over the past four years, we have done much to support these priorities from establishing the Washington Reading Corps, creating alternative routes for teacher certification, instituting Promise Scholarships, providing mentoring, new teachers and extra pay for National Board Certified teachers.

I remain as committed to these priorities and accomplishments today as I was the first day I took office in 1997.

I am also committed to taking on our current economic downturn with every tool at my disposal.

This time of year, the number one topic on many people’s minds seems to be the budget.

I want you to know that I will do everything I can to protect basic education funding. Nothing has changed in terms of my priorities. What have changed are the fiscal realities.

We still don’t know how badly the uncertain economy -- happening all across the U.S. -- will impact revenue. But we have to be prepared for the worst. I’ve asked the state’s six largest agencies to develop options for reducing their budgets by 15 percent. My office will work closely with other state agencies -- including colleges and universities -- to identify ways they also might reduce spending.

We will analyze and weigh the options for budget changes in the current biennium, which ends June 30, 2003. I will present the proposal to the 2002 Legislature in a few weeks. We will cut state spending, using information from our agencies to make choices that best serve and protect our critical services.

I do not want to make spending cuts that merely “thin the soup.”

While I am not considering any cuts to basic education funding for K-12 schools, I believe it is important for everyone to understand the fiscal situation we face as a state. I will do all I can to protect education, but let me be clear -- I did not say exempt.

Despite our budget situation, we move forward. We must continue to focus on a goal where every child enters school ready to learn, where all third-graders read at or above grade level, where all students have taken algebra by the end of the eighth grade, where our high school exit exams are aligned with college admissions requirements, where all young people graduate from high school prepared for college or work, and where every student who enters college finishes college.

Students -- and their families -- experience education as a series of poorly connected segments they must navigate with little or no assistance. If policymakers adopted the student perspective, they would understand the desirability of creating a seamless system. This is especially true for the transition between high school and college. Here is fertile ground for sowing the seeds of change, and an opportunity for integrating learning and workforce preparation.

We must all work together to create this seamless system.

Parent/Community Involvement
Since Sept 11th, people have been asking me, what can I do? How can I help?

As I said, we make America stronger by making each of our communities stronger. Support our community organizations. Because, before regions, states and cities, it is our communities that are the center of our lives.

You already realize this… you’ve gotten involved. You’ve invested in great projects, such as the Washington Reading Corps and the Reading Foundation.

Just as we have raised our standards in education to be among the highest in the nation, we must focus on higher parental and community involvement in our schools.

Parent and community involvement is a necessary component of reaching higher standards in education.

Studies of individual families show that the time family members put into a child, both in terms of quality and quantity, is worth more than income or even the education level of a parent.

Thirty-five years of research show that families can help their children both at home and in school. When families are involved in their children’s education in positive ways, children achieve higher grades and test scores, have better attendance at school, complete more homework, demonstrate more positive attitudes and behavior, graduate at higher rates, and have greater enrollment in higher education.

I challenge each and every one of you to actively motivate those outside of the school to be active participants in raising student achievement. I challenge each school board to set goals for parental and community involvement.

In these uncertain times, improving our state’s schools for each and every child embodies our nation’s highest ideals, our democratic values, and our economic and societal aspirations. The future of America, and of our children, depends on our focused diligence in enabling all children to learn and succeed.

Once again, I thank you for your commitment to education.
Related Links:
- Washington Reading Corps
- The Reading Foundation
- Washington State School Directors Association
- Washington's Promise Scholarships
- National Board Certified Teachers

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