State Senator Linda Evans Parlette visits local schools

Campaigning for office, state spending, an initiative allowing assisted suicide, graduation requirements and games designed to demonstrate a little human nature were among the topics when state Senator Linda Evans Parlette visited Pateros and Bridgeport high schools Thursday, Oct. 23.

Parlette, from Wenatchee, represents the 12th Legislative District, which covers several counties, including all of Douglas County and the southern third of Okanogan County. Parlette visits schools in the region once or twice each year, often following the legislative session. She is running unopposed.

Meeting with students at Pateros High School, Parlette talked about getting involved with politics, starting with her days on the Chelan School Board (she's a Chelan native) and how running for school board was supposed to be the end of it. "This wasn't my plan," she said. But the politics of education led to a successful run for the state House of Representatives and eventually the Senate seat.

Parlette did have some advice for the teens--always remember to look at the chair before sitting down, especially when wearing a white suit; there could be a plate of food there, including mustard. Parlette said the incident highlighted a lesson; sometimes it's just important to keep going, no matter the circumstances. It's also a good idea to have a sense of humor, she said; it will carry a person a long way.

Parlette spent most of her time in Pateros taking questions from teachers and students.

Washington will face a budget deficit in 2009, due in part to an expansion in state spending, Parlette said. From the time the state entered the Union in 1889 to the end of Governor Gary Locke's administration four years ago, the state budget had grown to $24-$25 billion; in four years under Governor Christine Gregoire, the budget grew to $33.7 billion. That's the largest four-year expansion in state history, she said. Parlette, a Republican, voted no on a number of Gregoire's legislative proposals, but Republicans are in the minority in both the state House of Representatives and Senate.

The state constitution says education should be the state's top priority, Parlette said, but in her opinion state officials have spent too much money on other programs and neglected their responsibilities to education. The Washington constitution requires "basic education" to be fully funded, but there's no consensus on what basic education actually means; a committee has been working on a definition for 18 months and still hasn't come up with an answer, Parlette said.

In answer to a question about state-mandated high school graduation requirements, Parlette said the Washington State Board of Education is still working on the proposal. She said she's a believer in pushing students, and that if they are given a challenge they'll meet it. But young people also have different skills and interests, and not every kid is interested in going to college. Education has to take note of that and provide training alternatives for students whose careers won't require college, she said. Students who get good training in math and writing will find those skills useful no matter what they're doing, she said.

It will be up to local school district to determine how they will implement the new state standards, Parlette said, and that's how it should be--local school boards should be in control, in her opinion.

In response to a question about the most difficult legislative decisions, Parlette said for her it was the question of same sex marriage. She voted no, she said, because of her strong personal belief that marriage should be restricted to one man and one woman. But the bill that had the most personal impact, she said, was the one that requires a graduated driver's license. It includes restrictions on passengers. Parlette said normally she's skeptical of legislation to regulate that kind of personal behavior, but in this case she voted for it because both her sons were involved in traffic accidents soon after getting their licenses. In both cases it was a good thing they weren't carrying passengers, she said.

She said the negative tone of a lot of the 2008 campaign has been pretty unsettling, and it's disappointing that it's happening. She said she believes the candidates are ultimately responsible for ads, negative and otherwise, whether they're produced by outside parties or not. If a candidate truly insists that negative ads should stop, they'll stop, she said. Unfortunately negative campaigning works, she said. Voters should look at the issues, decide which candidate best represents their views and vote accordingly, she said.

In answer to a question about differences between school now and school when she was a student, Parlette said kids in the 21st Century have a lot more distractions. "Your generation is going to be great multi-taskers," she said. Students can handle schoolwork, conversations and text messaging at the same time. But when it came to text messaging, Parlette said she had some advice. "My recommendation is, don't do that in the middle of a job interview."

User menu

NCW Media Newspapers