Lt. Gov. Brad Owen (at lectern) and some of the WSU students and faculty he welcomed to the Washington Senate chamber.

Understanding politics is, arguably, as important to a school superintendent as understanding education.  So students in WSU’s Superintendent Certification Program travel to Olympia before each legislative session for a primer on the making of laws that affect K-12 education.

The annual field trip is greatly aided by Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, a friend of program director Gene Sharratt. Owen opens up the Senate chamber (the lieutenant governor is president of the Senate when it is in session) and welcomes the WSU students. Last Friday’s packed agenda included policy updates from representatives of top education organizations, as well as state education officials.

The 54 students and four WSU faculty members heard about an upcoming legislative session that could hardly be more stressful. Education is one of many vital state services threatened by deep budget cuts.

The day’s take-home message? Gene summarized it this way:  “Solutions are possible if elected leaders work together to resolve short-term needs, while not losing sight of the long-term priorities.”

The value of the learning experience? Here’s what two of the students had to say:

“The Olympia seminar opened my eyes to new opportunities, future relationships, and how to impact political change.  I will be work on getting to know my legislative representatives and becoming more involved in my own professional organizations.” — Don Francis, elementary principal from the Quincy area.

“The seminar was packed with information regarding funding issues.  The opportunity to hear from practitioners and the difficult dilemma that they are in as we face a huge budget shortfall makes me rethink the political passion one must have for this work.” — Krestin Bahr, middle school principal from Tacoma.

Reading matter, politics edition
Legislature weighs giving up control over university tuition hikes. The Seattle Times reports that a proposal to allow the state’s public universities to raise tuition without legislative approval is gaining momentum in Olympia.