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McAuliffe vs. Richter

Having spent 14 years on the Northshore School District Board of Directors prior to heading for Olympia in 1992, perhaps it’s not surprising that Democratic State Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, District 1, has made education a key issue during her current reelection campaign.

Making his first try for public office, her Republican opponent Dennis Richter slammed the current cast of state legislators for overspending and also criticized McAuliffe’s approach to improving the state’s K-12 education system.

“We have world-class companies in this little area of the United States,” Richter said referring to firms such as Microsoft Corp. and Boeing. “They are just clamoring for a better educated workforce.”

Chair of the senate’s education committee, McAuliffe said Washington needs to redefine what it means by basic education. Toward that end, she launched a Basic Education Task Force to deal with spelling out educational issues and how to fund the state’s education system. A final report is due in December.

So far, McAuliffe said the task force has come up with five basic recommendations, but she cautioned with a slowing economy responding to those recommendations may take some time.

According to Richter, task forces and committees in general simply take too long to come up with any answers.

“There’s no demonstrated leadership,” he said.

Richter believes the state can start addressing its education issues by increasing teacher salaries in order to keep good instructors in the classroom. He also pointedly took McAuliffe to task for alleged plans to expand the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) exams, the standardized tests taken by every state student. For her part, McAuliffe flatly denied the charge.

According to Richter, McAuliffe helped sponsor a senate bill that called for lawmakers to “augment” the WASL.

“If you look up ‘augment’ in the dictionary, it pretty much means to add to it,” Richter said.

McAuliffe said she decidedly does not want to expand the WASL, but hopes to refine the tests, turning them into a learning experience for students, something she argues they should have been from the beginning.

Turning to what has become a central issue in every race this election season, McAuliffe talked a lot about her experience with budgets and the economy.

“We are in for a ride, that’s for sure,” she said. But McAuliffe added she has seen and dealt with economic downturns in the past, including a $1.8 billion state budget deficit that arrived in 1995. Richter insists the state needs to learn to live within its means, adding his figures show Olympia has increased spending by approximately 34 percent in the last four years.

“That’s unrealistic and undisciplined,” Richter said. “There’s no end to the number of projects the legislature seems to come up with.”

The answer is, he added, strict spending limits that can’t be circumvented.

If McAuliffe and Richter clashed on other topics, they also take hugely different directions on local transportation issues. Richter talked about a radical plan to build a high-speed monorail system along interstates 405 and 5. He said he doesn’t know the price tag at this point, but argued the state already owns the land needed to make the plan work, which would help keep costs down. Richter is not in favor of Proposition 1, which would fund light rail throughout the area.

“I believe in light rail,” McAuliffe said. “I believe it’s a solution.”

She also talked about collecting new tolls to help pay for transportation solutions.

“We do have to have tolls, but tolls that are reasonable for working people,” McAuliffe said.

Having spent 14 years on the Northshore School District Board of Directors prior to heading for Olympia in 1992, perhaps it’s not surprising that Democratic State Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, District 1, has made education a key issue during her current reelection campaign.

Making his first try for public office, her Republican opponent Dennis Richter slammed the current cast of state legislators for overspending and also criticized McAuliffe’s approach to improving the state’s K-12 education system.

“We have world-class companies in this little area of the United States,” Richter said referring to firms such as Microsoft Corp. and Boeing. “They are just clamoring for a better educated workforce.”

Chair of the senate’s education committee, McAuliffe said Washington needs to redefine what it means by basic education. Toward that end, she launched a Basic Education Task Force to deal with spelling out educational issues and how to fund the state’s education system. A final report is due in December.

So far, McAuliffe said the task force has come up with five basic recommendations, but she cautioned with a slowing economy responding to those recommendations may take some time.

According to Richter, task forces and committees in general simply take too long to come up with any answers.

“There’s no demonstrated leadership,” he said.

Richter believes the state can start addressing its education issues by increasing teacher salaries in order to keep good instructors in the classroom. He also pointedly took McAuliffe to task for alleged plans to expand the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) exams, the standardized tests taken by every state student. For her part, McAuliffe flatly denied the charge.

According to Richter, McAuliffe helped sponsor a senate bill that called for lawmakers to “augment” the WASL.

“If you look up ‘augment’ in the dictionary, it pretty much means to add to it,” Richter said.

McAuliffe said she decidedly does not want to expand the WASL, but hopes to refine the tests, turning them into a learning experience for students, something she argues they should have been from the beginning.

Turning to what has become a central issue in every race this election season, McAuliffe talked a lot about her experience with budgets and the economy.

“We are in for a ride, that’s for sure,” she said. But McAuliffe added she has seen and dealt with economic downturns in the past, including a $1.8 billion state budget deficit that arrived in 1995. Richter insists the state needs to learn to live within its means, adding his figures show Olympia has increased spending by approximately 34 percent in the last four years.

“That’s unrealistic and undisciplined,” Richter said. “There’s no end to the number of projects the legislature seems to come up with.”

The answer is, he added, strict spending limits that can’t be circumvented.

If McAuliffe and Richter clashed on other topics, they also take hugely different directions on local transportation issues. Richter talked about a radical plan to build a high-speed monorail system along interstates 405 and 5. He said he doesn’t know the price tag at this point, but argued the state already owns the land needed to make the plan work, which would help keep costs down. Richter is not in favor of Proposition 1, which would fund light rail throughout the area.

“I believe in light rail,” McAuliffe said. “I believe it’s a solution.”

She also talked about collecting new tolls to help pay for transportation solutions.

“We do have to have tolls, but tolls that are reasonable for working people,” McAuliffe said.

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