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Originally published Friday, September 7, 2012 at 1:41 PM

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Join the conversation about education system

Today, The Seattle Times editorial board begins a discussion about how Washington state must embrace a broader vision of education policy that encompasses preschool and higher education. We are calling the conversation, "3 to 23."

Times editorial page editor

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Last week, my Facebook feed was a happy parade of some of the brightest and most promising of our citizens.

Together, my friends posted scores of first-day-of-school photos of their wide-eyed preschoolers, middle-schoolers with artfully spiked haircuts, teenagers caught in mid-eye roll. My husband posted one of our own newly minted sophomore.

While the kids buckle down to their school work, Washington's adults are refocusing on what to do about the state's education system. The state Supreme Court expects its first progress report Sept. 17 after putting the state on notice about its inadequate K-12 funding approach.

Meanwhile, a task force is meeting. Leaders are testing bold ideas. Candidates for political office usually bring up education first thing in our interviews. Many clearly lack imagination when they assert that the high court's ruling is a mandate only for more money and not more reforms. Solutions will require both and, frankly, more of the latter to start, as the economy still struggles.

Today, The Times editorial board urges a broader vision of education in our state that pushes beyond the K-12 system as the centerpiece. The state must more formally embrace early learning and its key role in putting children on the right educational path and halt the trend of the last four years of abandoning funding responsibilities for higher education.

We are calling this conversation, "3 to 23". That's not to say we believe the state should put kids through college, but state leaders should ensure the full system is making sure our youngest citizens are ready for kindergarten, that our K-12 schools are as effective and innovative as possible and that public colleges and universities are not only affordable and accessible for students but strong and nimble partners in our economy.

This is a critical policy moment not only for our youth, but also for what a well-educated citizenry and more robust education system can do to help Washington climb more decisively out of the economic doldrums.

Today is the start of an intense conversation we intend to have on these pages through the election and into the legislative session. Today's guest columnists consider the threat to higher education and how to close the achievement gap. Check back through the week for more guest columns on education.

We'd love to hear from you.

  • Follow the conversation at
  • Follow on Twitter (#3to23)
  • Send letters of up to 200 words to: (Put "3 to 23" in the subject line).
  • Participate in an online chat at noon Thursday:

Kate Riley's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. Her email address is

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