It is not often that candidates get to speak directly to voters unfiltered through the lens of the media, and so I thank the editors of The Stranger for this unusual and unexpected opportunity. I can not speak to the motives of the editors, but I trust you, the readers, to be fair. It is my hope that given the opportunity to read me in my own words, you will both join me in my campaign to take Washington State in a New Direction, and in my belief that no area of public policy needs this New Direction more than our public schools.
"It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders." — Washington State Constitution, Article 9, Section 1
Our state Constitution's authors had it right: Educating our children is the paramount duty of state government. We can create the kind of school system that Washington’s children deserve, and that a 21st Century economy demands. Under my administration our public schools will be innovative, fully funded and prepared to deliver on the promise that our kids will be prepared for college, advanced technical training or the workforce.
And while the Constitution does not address college education, the modern economy — where two of three new jobs will require a college or advanced degree — makes a high-performing higher education system an absolute requirement if our state is to increase and maintain its economic competitiveness. Yet our state ranks among the bottom ten in America for the percentage of our people who attend a four-year college or university. Less than half of jobs currently being filled by employers which require a college or advanced degree are being filled by graduates who earned their degree in Washington; more than half those jobs are filled by workers hired from out of state.
But while education is state government’s paramount duty, support for our public schools has not been the state's top budget priority. It’s time to change that, with no excuses. As the state budget grows over time, as it surely will, we need to prioritize those new funds toward our kids’ futures through our K-12 system as well as our colleges and universities.
At the same time, we cannot spend more money on existing public school programs that are underperforming without first reforming them. Washington is regarded nationally as an education reform backwater, coming in near the bottom in the President's Race to the Top competition, and only one of handful that does not authorize charter schools. This failure is utterly unacceptable in a state which generally is considered innovative. We must learn from our failures, fix what is broken, promote competition, and move forward rapidly to catch up to, and then surpass, our sister states.
Our teachers should be respected for the professionals that they are, but our paramount duty is to put our children first, and give Washington State the quality K-12 education system it deserves.