Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Mercer Island Rotary Luncheon Meeting
September 23, 2003
Good afternoon. It’s great to be here.
I’m sure many of you are parents. Emily’s first day of school was just a few weeks ago. She started the first grade this year.
Things have settled down now, but that first day there were the usual emotions. Anxiety about wearing the right outfit. Concern over whether all the school supplies were ready. Worrying about getting to school on time. Agonizing over how the day would go. Then the inevitable tears. And that was just me and Mona! Emily was actually pretty calm and took it all in stride! And Dylan can hardly wait until next year when he starts kindergarten.
The new school year is under way, and we have reason to feel excited about our state’s education progress. This past summer we saw encouraging proof of success in our schools. Our kids are making some of the greatest academic gains in the nation.
The National Assessment of Education Progress reported that our 4th and 8th graders scored above the national averages in both reading and writing. More Washington students are succeeding on Advanced Placement courses.
Our state leads the nation in S.A.T. scores. In states with large numbers taking the test, Washington is number one in both math and verbal! Our students performed equally well on the ACT college placement exams. In a comparison of student scores in states with similar percentages of test takers, Washington is tied with two other states for #1.
The WASL scores released last month also show great progress.
Look at what we’ve accomplished in just seven years! Fourth graders meeting the reading standard went from 48 percent in 1997 to almost 67 percent this year.
In math, fourth graders went from 21 percent to 55 percent this year.
Seventh graders have made great progress in writing, going from 31 percent in 1997 to nearly 55 percent this year.
I am very proud of our students, teachers, principals, parents and school district staff. We have very high standards, and they are paying off.
Education is more than the most important priority. It is the cardinal cause and wellspring of our performance in all other areas. It is the key to a vital economy. It is the key to a prosperous future for our children. We will succeed and prosper as a state—we will ensure the welfare of our people—only if we have a strong education system that serves everyone.
I believe we can build an opportunity culture in our state. An opportunity culture characterized by an inherent and strong sense of equality. A culture that encourages the pursuit of personal fulfillment and growth.
I believe our opportunity culture can deliver an important, realistic expectation: Anyone in our state can achieve a brighter future and better life if they are willing to learn and work hard. That’s what I mean by an opportunity culture, and it all begins with education.
We have a very good start. But from preschool to graduate school, education requires dedicated, permanent, and stable funding. This next session, I intend to continue my fight for a dedicated, permanent and stable source of education funding.
As we build our world-class education system, we must also strategically plan our state’s economic development. Our education system will supply the first-rate workforce we need for a thriving, competitive state economy.
We must keep the businesses we have and attract new ones by cultivating a healthy, dynamic business climate. We have made great strides in improving our state’s business climate. Seven national companies have located multi-state regional distribution centers in Washington state since January of 2002. And together these companies are generating approximately 1900 jobs in our state.
We are becoming more competitive, especially in responding to the recommendations of the Washington Competitiveness Council.
After this year’s session, we received a “report card” from the Washington Competitiveness Council. The Competitiveness Scorecard issued by the Council at the end of the session concluded, and I quote: “Extraordinary effort led to remarkable results.”
The Competitiveness Scorecard tallied 32 bills that the Legislature passed and I signed into law this year—32 bills that advanced the Competitiveness Council agenda.
We passed a 10-year transportation improvement plan, with $4.2 billion in new transportation investments across the state.
The state construction budget we passed this year means more than 13,000 new private sector construction and other family-wage jobs in the next two years. The plan also sustains 11,000 jobs in the two fiscal years that follow.
We also made substantial progress in regulatory reform, and simplified municipal B&O taxation. We reformed injured workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance.
We passed incentives for the development of biodiesel fuels, and made progress in telecommunications development.
And we established the Economic Development Commission by statute.
We put an exclamation point on the session with our efforts to keep the 7E7 in Washington. We passed a $3 billion tax incentive package.
We are confident in the proposal we submitted to Boeing in June. And we are confident that Boeing will choose Washington as the best place to build this airplane.
The work continues. It isn’t making headlines. It is not be as visible as before. But behind the scenes we are relentlessly doing all that we can to make sure Boeing chooses Washington.
We will continue to take decisive steps to keep Boeing and other businesses here, and attract new ones. Strengthening our business base will further develop our economy. And a vibrant economy will ultimately provide needed tax revenues. Revenues for education and for medical care for seniors and low-income children. A vibrant, healthy economy will help us better serve the priorities we all care about most.
As we focus on education and economic development, let’s continually strengthen the link between the two. A strong public education system prepares our children for a lifetime of achievement. And higher education is a powerful economic development tool. Let’s harness higher education to help drive economic growth.
Let’s continue to emphasize higher education programs that prepare students for high demand fields such as information technology, nursing, and teaching.
I am proud of all that we have accomplished as a state since I took office in 1997. But we still have work to do. Continuing to improve education, sustaining our economic development momentum, keeping Boeing in Washington.
But when we succeed—and we will succeed—we will have helped Washington toward a brighter future. We will be on our way to realizing an opportunity culture.
I think this is the greatest place on the planet to live, work and raise a family. Together, let’s keep working to make sure it will stay that way for our children and their children.