Senator McCoy shares thoughts on MSD education issues

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

On Tuesday, October 18, the Marysville-Pilchuck High School auditorium was home to Marysville School District’s first Education Town Hall. The panelists included Washington State Representative June Robinson, Marysville School Board President Peter Lundberg, and Tulalip tribal member, Senator John McCoy.

“Senator John McCoy and Representative June Robinson serve the communities of Everett, Marysville and Tulalip in Olympia during the State Legislative Session which starts every year in January,” states Dr. Becky Berg, Marysville School District Superintendent. “When they are not in Olympia, they also work tirelessly for our local communities in their day-jobs and by meeting and working with citizens to understand concerns and advocate new ideas.”

During the 90-minute Town Hall discussion the focus was all about education; from defining what basic education is, how to best educate MSD students, and how that education may be funded going forward. Senator McCoy took point on many of the discussion questions and, as is his style, didn’t hold back with his honest assessments and ideas on how to best equip MSD students with a quality education that yields productive citizens.

Sen. John McCoy, D-38 Photo/wastateleg.org

Sen. John McCoy, D-38
Photo/wastateleg.org

In your opinion, what is basic education? 

“Because we have such a diver legislature, lots of different opinions, there are a lot of different ideas about what basic education is. You can say we are constantly defining basic education because each community across the state of Washington is a little bit unique in terms of their diversity and needs. For the students, their community determines what they need survive in that area. I’ve been preaching that you have to take it community by community, which means the school districts, and they have to decide the necessary skill sets of that community in order to survive. For every community, there is a focus and codes of language based on the resources in that area.

Here in the Everett/Marysville/Tulalip area we have Boeing, Fluke, and medical centers. These are technical companies, companies manufacturing aerospace parts, and a large contingent of the healthcare sector. So we have to figure out what needs to be in the skill sets of our students in order to take advantage of these local companies. That’s going to be a different skill set required than students in the Tri-City area, or the Bellevue area, or the Neah Bay area. Each community needs to work on what is required for them to survive and they should gear your education systems to those requirements.”

 

How do you propose to level the educational playing field?

“I’m watching out for that square peg trying to get into the round hole. No child walks through the door with the same information, even if they live in the same house. We have to get down to where they are, find out where they are, so that we can educate them. Now not every kid is going to be a STEM person (STEM is a curriculum based on science, technology, engineering and mathematics). That’s probably only 15-20% of students who are going to be STEM people, so why are we gearing everything to STEM? By doing that we are leaving 80% of our students behind when they could be trained up to be very productive citizens of the community.

Whenever I talk to kids I tell them ‘find that one thing that makes you want to get up in the morning and go do it’ because there will be some crazy guy like me who will pay you to do it. Be happy in your work. I think we’ve all seen people who are not happy in their work and their product showed it. Not everyone is going to be an engineer or become a programmer. So that’s what we have to do, we have to get our educators to where the kids are. I have the highest respect for every teacher in the system. I thank them every time I can. They have a hard job. They’re educating the people who are our future. We need to prepare them for everything.”

We seem to all agree that the State needs to meet its duty to fully fund education. In your opinion, where should the money come from?

“The fact remains we need to devise a system that will have everybody in the State participate, everybody. Not everybody is participating in the revenue process. Right now, because of our sales tax system, the middle class and low-income are carrying the burden of all taxes. The upper incomes are pretty much unscathed, so we need to devise a method that everybody participates.”

What do you see your individual role being during the 2017 State Legislative Session when it comes to the State’s mandate to fully fund education by 2018?

“Well, I’m not on any of the finance committees by design. In my prior life I did a lot of working with budgets and quite honestly I got tired of it. Now, I delve into just policy. But that does not relieve any legislator from their responsibility to do due diligence and fund education. We all have something at stake. We all have skin in the game to bring it home for all students in the state of Washington, all students. We need to work together, with one another in order to achieve this.

One thing the Supreme Court was quite clear on, and I agree with, is that salaries should be part of basic education. There will be lots of discussion and we need to solve that problem and move forward. We all have hard work to do and I think we’re up to it. We’re going to do the best job we can to fully fund education so all our kids down the road can become productive citizens.”

What is the one thing you’d like to see the State Legislator accomplish this session when it comes to K-12 education?

“I’ve been in the State Legislator for fourteen years and twelve of those fourteen I’ve dropped the bill to delink, and I will continue to do it. The last three years the Chair of the Senate Education Committee refused to allow that bill to come up, to not even be heard. I will submit another bill to clean them out again and see what happens.

I think the Education Committee ought to be disbanded for five years. Everybody thinks they’re an expert when it comes to education. The Legislator turns over 20% every two years and out of the group we get all these folks who think they have the magic fix. That’s why we have an unsettled education system because every two years a group comes in who wants this or that and everything remains unsettled. We have to stop, let things settle, and see the process work. In my opinion, we have a pretty good school system, but we keep messing with it. We need to stop that and allow current processes to work.”

In your opinion, what skills and capabilities do students need to be a productive citizen?

“That depends on the child. Autistic students can demonstrate great skill and be productive when they are educated at their level. They have skills that will help the community. Every child in the State of Washington has the capability to be a very strong citizen and be productive in this state. Like I said earlier, we have to find out where the student is at and teach them at their level.”

 

 

 

Contact Michael Rios, mrios@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

Senator McCoy receives the E3 award for Diversity in Action

Honored for his work to protect the environment while serving many diverse interests

Senator John McCoy (D) of Tulalip honored with the E# award for Diversity in Action. McCoy was one of three tribal recipients in Washington State honored for his work in employing diversity to reach a more sustainable future.Photo courtesy of E3

Senator John McCoy (D) of Tulalip honored with the E# award for Diversity in Action. McCoy was one of three tribal recipients in Washington State honored for his work in employing diversity to reach a more sustainable future.
Photo courtesy of E3

By Andrew Gobin, Tulalip News

Senator John McCoy received the Diversity in Action-Individual E3 Washington Green Apple Award on June 26 for his work in environmental education. He has in mind education for the environment to be incorporated throughout all levels of learning, including post-secondary education programs. While protecting the environment is mutually beneficial, it is often a sensitive subject with specific community concerns attached. McCoy, a member of the Tulalip Tribes, is diligent in making sure that each diverse community is represented in every issue, working to set attainable goals for sustainability on  that everyone can agree on.

Steve Robinson, an Olympia based businessman who nominated McCoy, said, “Senator McCoy has been a tireless leader in many capacities which have served environmental education, multiculturalism and diversity well. His presence on ‘the hill’ in Olympia has provided an immeasurable amount of benefit to both tribal and non-tribal people and governments. He has sponsored phenomenal, far-reaching legislation, ranging from bills to integrate Indian culture and history into the classroom to a bill to establish Indian Heritage Day. Senator McCoy is one of the hardest working legislators in Olympia and he is committed to the protection and restoration of a healthy, vibrant environment for all.”

In addition to advocating for culturally sensitive environmental education, McCoy is tenacious and steadfast in his opposition of bills that would be potentially harmful to the environment, working to block them as much as possible.

“Last year, I successfully blocked legislation that would have allowed for water to be repurposed without regulation. This prevented water allocated for personal or agricultural purposes from being repurposed and used commercially, which would have created a loophole in current regulations,” said McCoy.

The work McCoy does to contribute to education for the environment, in addition to the work to prevent detrimental legislation, represent the magnitude of his career. According to the E3 statement, the Washington Green Apple award for Diversity in Action, “recognizes an individual, organization, tribe or program that demonstrates cultural awareness and encourages a multicultural approach to environmental and sustainability education programs while exemplifying the Lead Green goal.”

McCoy said, “I am honored to receive this award, and thankful for the recognition of the magnitude of work I have been involved with.”

While recognized for his work in environmental education, McCoy’s career has centered on water issues. He is also a strong proponent in Washington of legislation promoting the research and use of alternative energy, working to pass i937 last year, which deals with the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio and standards on greenhouse gasses.

 

Andrew Gobin is a staff reporter with the Tulalip News See-Yaht-Sub, a publication of the Tulalip Tribes Communications Department.
Email: agobin@tulalipnews.com
Phone: (360) 716.4188