Deeming education her top priority, Gov. Christine Gregoire pledged in her Jan. 9 State of the State address to improve opportunities for the youngest children in Washington state by spending more money on early education and health care.
Gov. Gregoire, a Democrat elected in 2004, proposed adding more early-learning slots in prekindergarten programs and phasing in voluntary full-day kindergarten, starting with schools with the highest poverty levels. In addition, she wants to lower class sizes in kindergarten through third grade.
The governor also called for a voluntary rating system for child-care facilities. “We rate restaurants, hotels, and music, don’t you think we should rate the places we entrust with our children?” she said.
Although she said Washington is marching toward its goal of ensuring that all children have access to health care by 2010, Gov. Gregoire said more needs to be done. She wants to provide health insurance to 32,000 children out of the approximately 70,000 who don’t now have coverage, and raise the reimbursement rate to pediatricians so families in a state-funded program can have easier access to doctors. She also wants to spend $26 million to provide vaccines for more children.
Improving mathematics and science in the state’s schools also was a theme of Gov. Gregoire’s speech. She wants to require smaller classes in those subjects, at a 25-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio, and to tie math and science education to international standards. She wants to recruit 750 new math and science teachers, including some from the private sector, by offering college scholarships and loan forgiveness.
“This nation met the challenge of President Kennedy in the 1960s to be the first to put a man on the moon,” she said. “Our modern-day moon challenge is to meet the math and science crisis facing our state and nation.”
In the area of higher education, Gov. Gregoire proposed making room for an additional 8,300 students in state institutions of higher education, including 3,300 slots in the high-demand fields of computer science, health, engineering, and construction. She also called for a tuition cap to rein in the rising cost of a higher education, and a tuition freeze at the state’s community and technical colleges.
A version of this article appeared in the January 17, 2007 edition of Education Week