By Charles Lam
Northwest Asian Weekly
Washington Communities of Color United for Progress hosted a legislative discussion day and candidate forum to discuss necessary legislative priorities on education, economic development, and criminal justice this past Saturday, Oct. 20 at Rainier Beach High School. These priorities will go on to be presented to winning candidates as issues important to communities of color. Approximately 100 individuals attended and participated in the discussion.
The legislative portion of the event took place in the morning and was at times heated.
Participants of the discussion spotlighted the importance of education catering to minority children, the need for proper training and retraining for teachers, and the role of the community in caring for children. The importance of disciplinary record keeping was mentioned multiple times.
“It’s important that we not only keep track of the reasons why our kids are disciplined, but also that we keep track of where they ultimately end up,” said a young Black man during the discussion.
A lion’s share of the blame for the unresponsive school system was placed upon the legislature, though State Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-37), who was present and is the chair of the Education Committee, did not agree.
She said that while the grievances expressed by the discussion had merit, they matched those that the Education Committee had identified. She stressed that while the legislature had some failings, it is also up to the local school boards to shape local school policy.
After a brief break, the attendees moved to the auditorium, where the candidate forum was to be held.
The attendees prepared questions for moderator Essex Porter of KIRO 7 to ask the gubernatorial candidates. They included such topics as charter schools, marijuana legalization, and minority business.
Democratic candidate Jay Inslee was first to answer questions on stage, followed by Republican Rob McKenna. They were not on stage at the same time, nor did they publicly interact.
For the most part, they reiterated their well-worn positions with occasional personal stories to illustrate their positions.
Inslee highlighted his time visiting Seattle-area schools when asked about improving education for minority children.
He said that class sizes were too high to properly engage all children and that much of that stress fell on newly minted teachers. He proposed lowering class sizes, primarily in the early grades to help better prepare children to learn, and recruiting more teachers from minority communities — both were solutions which were specifically addressed earlier, during the legislative discussion.
When asked the same question, Rob McKenna spoke on the importance of funding early education preparation programs. Both candidates agreed on a move to all-day kindergarten.
Both candidates’ campaigns are ramping up for the last two weeks before the election. (end)
Charles Lam can be reached at email@example.com.