Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Executive Request Legislation-Education
January 13, 2003

Good morning. Thank you for being here.

I’d like to recognize some key education legislators who join me here today – State Representatives Dave Quall and Gigi Talcott. Thank you for coming.

Today the 58th Washington State Legislature convenes. There will be a lot of difficult choices and painful cuts this Legislative session, as we work to balance a $2.4 billion deficit – the largest in our state’s history.

These are difficult times in our state.

Everyone is being forced to live within their means, and that includes state government.

The budget I proposed to the Legislature does just that.

It also clearly defines the priorities of state government.

And I want to make it very clear that my top priority is education.

Under my proposal, public schools, colleges and universities would receive 56 percent of our general fund budget.

I am proposing spending $10.6 billion on public schools, which is more than the current biennial budget.

We must continue moving forward on education improvements, despite the tough economic times. And that’s what we’re here to talk about today.

I would like to start by clearing up some misconceptions about what my budget proposal would do to Initiatives 728 and 732.

I am not suggesting that we repeal or cancel these popular voter-approved initiatives.

I am proposing that we temporarily delay the next steps of their implementation. And, in fact, we retain the class-size reduction investments we’ve already made.

In my budget, I am proposing to delay further increases in Initiative 728 funding for class-size reduction.

I-728 has already increased our level of funding for public schools by $220 per student, or $210 million per school year.

I-728 is scheduled to increase to $450 per student in the 2004-05 school year.

My legislation would keep the current funding level in place.

Under my proposal, in 2005-06, we will begin phasing-in increases in I-728 funding. We will reach our $450 per student goal in the 2007-08 school year. Ideally, this will coincide with an improving state economy.

I am also asking the Legislature to suspend Initiative-732’s automatic, annual cost-of-living increases for educational employees for the next two years.

The suspension will not affect annual "pay raises" increases many teachers receive for acquiring education credits and additional years of experience.

I am also calling for the automatic cost-of-living adjustment to resume in 2005-06.

In other executive request legislation, I believe it is time for the state to clarify for students, parents and teachers exactly what the state will require for high school graduation when the Certificate of Mastery requirement takes effect for the class of 2008.

We need to focus on the basics and maintain the high standards that we have set for Washington students.

That’s why I am working with legislators and the Superintendent of Public Instruction to refine and clarify our state’s student assessment system.

This includes establishing a meaningful and predictable graduation requirement. It also means undertaking some mid-course corrections in the state’s assessment system.

We will be working together on the details of this legislation in the coming weeks.

I believe elements of the legislation should include:

· Setting 2008 as the year the Certificate of Mastery becomes mandatory for graduation; and

· Focusing on the basics of reading, writing and mathematics in 2008; science in 2010; civics in 2012 and dropping arts and physical fitness as graduation requirements.

· Providing alternative assessments and WASL retake opportunities.

I continue to strongly support the WASL. It supports the high expectations that we have set for students in our state, and provides important information on our progress to schools and to parents.

We need to have high standards if our students are expected to compete in this high-tech, global marketplace.

I am also proposing legislation that strengthens the state’s Learning Assistance Program, or LAP.

Currently, the LAP funding system punishes school districts when they improve student achievement and then get money when the next group of students fail.

That must change.

We need to put the money where the need is, and make sure it remains where the need is.

My budget proposal would stabilize allocations to school districts by using poverty and poverty concentration statistics.

At the same time we are stabilizing funding in schools, we need to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of this program.

I am also proposing legislation regarding school levies.

Currently, state law limits school districts’ ability to raise local levies to supplement state funding.

But currently, 91 school districts are grandfathered with 79 different local levy limits above the state limit.

These levy limits have maintained differences between districts that happened to be in place at the time the original levy lids were established.

It is time to remove these artificial distinctions between neighboring school districts. Currently, some school districts right next door to one another have vastly different levy limits. That’s not fair, and it must be changed.

I am proposing legislation that will allow all school districts the opportunity to ask their local voters for levies up to 36 percent of their levy base.

Voters in school districts that have been restrained by lower levy limits would be able to invest as much in their schools as other neighboring districts, if they choose to do so.

This change will treat local school districts equitably – and fairly.

A uniform 36-percent state levy lid would allow every school district the same opportunity to increase local investments in schools, subject to voter approval.

We also need to create a more equitable and efficient way to pass school levies.

That’s why I’m again asking the Legislature to support a Constitutional amendment to change the mandatory 60 percent voter approval needed to pass educational levies.

We would change the “super majority” of 60 percent voter approval that is now required, to a “simple majority” of 50 percent, plus one vote.

We must also reward our teachers who achieve national board certification.

I am proposing that those teachers receive an annual bonus of $3,500 for attaining certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards.

They would receive this bonus for each year they maintain certification.

We are moving ahead with education improvements in the state, despite the slow economy.

Today I sent an open letter to the teachers, parents and students in our state.

I recognize the teachers’ right to voice their concerns about our budget. I want them to know that these were difficult decisions for me.

I am committed to fighting for further class-size reductions in our public schools and higher salaries for teachers. We simply do not pay our educators enough. Teachers are shaping the future of our state, and have my deepest respect.

Unfortunately, our budget crisis does not allow us to make all of the education investments we’d like to make this session.

Still, we must continue to invest in our future – and education is the way to do it. And, again, that’s why education represents the largest portion of my budget – 56 percent.

And with that, I’ll entertain any questions you might have.

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