Governor Gary Locke’s Remarks
Washington State Grange Event
June 27, 2003

Good morning. I am honored to be here. I understand that this is the first time that this annual convention has been held in Okanogan County. It’s great to be a part of history in the making!

The Washington State Grange is no stranger to history. This is one of the most successful organizations in our state’s history—and even two months older than our state itself. You lead the nation in membership at 60,000 strong. And you’ve led the state to many important developments, including:

· Public Utility Districts
· Blanket primary which should be kept intact
· Rural electrification
· Family Farm Water Act
· Commodity commissions

These developments touch people all across our state. And the Grange continues to lead. The Washington State Grange is an active voice in the politics and issues of this state. As America’s “family fraternal organization,” you speak up for Washington families and communities.

Thank you for speaking up, and for the hard work that Grange members do every day to make our state better. You are a key partner in serving our state’s most important priorities. I value this partnership, and I’d like to talk about a few of the more significant areas in which our collaborations are paying off.

First, we are partners in education. The Grange works hard for our state’s students. You support and value reading programs. I truly appreciate your efforts in this area. When it comes to reading, we’re on the same page.

Reading programs like the ones the Grange supports are critically important for our kids. Learning to read is an essential foundation for success—not just in school, but in our society. Strong reading skills are essential to a student’s success in all areas of learning.

Research shows that children who are not proficient readers by the end of 3rd grade have difficulties throughout the course of their schooling. They perform poorly in other subjects and often never graduate. In a technological society, the demands for higher literacy are ever increasing. The consequences for those who fall short are dire.

Five years ago, we started the Washington Reading Corps. We’re still waiting on this year’s results, but we had a great school year for the Reading Corps in 2001-2002. The program served over 15,000 students with almost 8,200 tutors. More than 500,000 tutoring hours were provided to students. Students who participated for the entire school year received an average of 41 hours of tutoring.

And we’re in the second year of the Governor’s Summer Reading Challenge. I hope all of your kids are participating! Please check with your local libraries. Last summer, nearly six thousand students met my challenge by reading at least 15 hours over the summer.

Of course, the Grange does much more for young students. The Dictionary Project is helping thousands of students learn to use one of life’s most valuable tools. Your donations of school supplies and books also make a difference to kids at a key time in their life. And Grange scholarships help 40 students statewide every year, with many more locally sponsored scholarships.

The Grange also actively supports agricultural education, a critical area for our state’s economy. This includes donations to Ag in the Classroom, and assisting Future Farmers of America. I understand that beginning next year, a past FFA officer will join the Washington State Grange legislative staff as an intern. What a great experience! And what a great way to learn firsthand about democracy in action.

It’s easy for me to get enthused about these education programs. In spite of these tough times, education remains my top priority. It is the great equalizer, and the wellspring of our performance as a state in all other areas. Together, I am confident we can achieve the world class education system our children and citizens deserve.

We are also partners in transportation. The Washington State Grange works hard for our state’s mobility. While not popular, the Grange endorsed R-51. Thanks again for your support. When R-51 didn’t pass, I vowed we would do something about transportation in the 2003 Legislative session.

And we did. The $4.2 billion package we passed will finally get us back on the road to better transportation. It took many meetings—I even had to call an all-night “pajama party”—but we finally hammered out an agreement that will help our state. Support from the Grange was critical to our success.

The improvements in this plan will make our roads safer, speed up commutes, improve freight mobility across the state, replace four auto ferries built in 1927, and improve public transportation and passenger rail.

Our economy has been losing $2 billion every year due to congestion. That’s $2 billion in wasted time, wasted fuel and shippers’ delays. By improving our transportation system, we’ll reduce costs of congestion for growers, for manufacturers, for merchants and for consumers.

Washington farms and businesses have struggled long enough to remain competitive under this burden. An improved, efficient transportation system will help us keep our businesses—and jobs—here in Washington and help us attract new businesses, too.

The transportation package also gives Washington citizens the accountability they need and deserve. Many of the projects we’re funding are ready to be built and several are starting this summer. We know where the dollars are going and how they’ll be spent. There will be regular audits and results will be available to the public. I am confident that the Department of Transportation will deliver these improvements on time and on budget. And we will see the benefits of transportation improvements all across our state.

The new package won’t solve all of our transportation problems—but it is a very good start. We are excited to get under way. The sooner we improve the safety and efficiency of our transportation system, the sooner we will see the benefits. I appreciate the ongoing support of the Grange in the area of transportation.

We are partners in bringing technology to our entire state. The Grange works hard to extend telecommunications into rural areas. You are expanding broadband Internet capability in these areas. Your partnership with the Gates Foundation has put 16 public access computers with high-speed connections in Grange halls all over our state.

This is right in line with our state commitment to give our kids the technological tools they need to succeed. Earlier this year, we announced the Washington Digital Learning Commons.

The Commons is an Internet-based educational center accessible from schools, homes and libraries throughout the state.

The Commons offers:

· High quality materials with active links to a broad range of educational and cultural organizations such as science centers, museums and archives; many institutions that charge an access fee to view or use their materials will be free of charge via the Commons.

· Learning tools—software and support to help students, teachers and parents incorporate computer-based resources into teaching and learning.
Students will be able to create personalized portfolios to preserve and present their work; and

· Online classes: Media-rich, interactive and engaging courses, rigorously reviewed, aligned with our state’s essential learning requirements and approved for credit.

We want every student in our state to have access to great resources, great courses, and great teachers in every subject they wish to pursue.

Every student—regardless of location, size of school, number of teachers, regardless of background, regardless of district resources.

Finally, we are partners on water issues. The Washington State Grange works hard for water reform. Thanks in part to your hard work, we were able to pass some key water reform measures this session. We passed legislation to protect water rights held by cities and farmers by providing them with better certainty. We took the next step toward locally-based watershed plans.

In the past year, we issued new water rights on the Columbia River. We’ve cut the backlog in water rights changes and transfers, and moved potential storage and water infrastructure forward.

We will continue with these reforms.

We must also modernize our relinquishment laws. This is clearly an important priority. We will take it up next session, and I will be discussing it with legislative leaders in the interim.

And I remain committed to making sure our state has sufficient storage to meet the needs of people, farms and fish. This year the Legislature approved our request for funding by providing more than $7 million for work on water storage.

The Washington State Grange is a valued partner for progress in our state. We share the values that make our state great: family and community, hard work, education, opportunity, and a high quality of life. From its origins the same year Washington was admitted to statehood to today, the Grange has helped charter our state’s course. You are a vital and appreciated voice in our state’s democratic process.

Let’s continue to work together to make sure Washington remains a great place to live, work, and raise a family.

Thank you.

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