Gov. wants new education dept.

Jan 5, 2011, 11:27 AM | Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 3:46 pm

Governor Chris Gregoire’s idea to improve education in Washington is to create a new department and put someone other than a voter-elected leader in charge of it.

Gregoire“I’m one of those who was the first person in my family to go to college. I personally know the value of education,” says Gregoire. “I firmly believe we have to build a path that takes our kids on a straight and sensible journey from early learning to career.”

The Governor says Washington does not have “an education system.” Instead, she says we have a “collection of agencies that deal with the subject of education.”

Gregoire today proposed setting up a state Department of Education that would take over duties handled by the Superintendent of Public Instruction – a position currently held by Randy Dorn. Dorn calls the Governor’s plan a “smokescreen,” and tells me he learned about her proposal along with the news media.

A governor-appointed education secretary would head the department, alongside a state education council.

Her plan could require amending the state constitution, which establishes the state superintendent’s office. Amending the constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote of the Legislature and public approval by statewide vote.

The new department would supervise the state’s entire schooling system, from kindergarten to higher education and she says it would be “student focused.”

“It’s always going to be focused on what’s best, what’s right for students,” she says.

Gregoire also wants to offer more options to high school seniors, recommending the 12th grade become a “launch year” to a student’s career. According to her analysis, 35 percent of high school seniors carry less than a full class load, and only 25 percent of students capable of taking advanced courses do so.

“We must require our schools to offer more rigorous and relevant courses to seniors – whether they are hands-on classes that bring students closer to a technical certificate, or advanced courses that lead to college credit,” she says. “By making the last year of high school the first year of career training or college, we can give our seniors an advantage in a competitive world. At the same time, we save students and their parents tuition costs – which saves taxpayers, as well.”

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Gov. wants new education dept.