“Constitutional duty” was the rallying call of the approximately 5,500 people gathered, demanding full K-12 funding, in keeping with the McCleary state Supreme Court decision.
OLYMPIA — With the start of a new legislative session and still no plan in place to comply with a state Supreme Court order, thousands of students, teachers and school administrators gathered on the Statehouse steps Monday to demand that legislators fully fund K-12 education.
“Constitutional duty” was the rallying call of the approximately 5,500 people gathered, as they punctuated their speeches with invocations of the Washington Constitution and descriptions of what they said were inadequate conditions faced by students around the state.
“They learn that their education is not valued as much as others,” said Duncan King, a student at Garfield High School in Seattle, as he described fellow students forced to take fewer classes than they’d like because of budget constraints.
“I am surprised how my students make it every day when their day-to-day needs are not met,” said Andrea Gamboa, a Tukwila teacher.
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The protest was the latest call to action in the ongoing effort — and political fight — over how to boost K-12 funding. In 2012, the Washington Supreme Court, in what is known as the McCleary decision, found that Washington had failed to meet its constitutional duty to properly fund basic education. The court ordered the Legislature to implement a plan, and in September 2014, found the state in contempt for failing to devise one.
Soon after the speeches Monday, small groups broke off to deliver to individual lawmakers posters of what they called the “Student Bill of Rights,” which specified policy prescriptions to meet the court’s mandate. Examples included small class sizes and professional support for students, and competitive pay and benefits for school employees.
Many of the protesters hoped the rally would galvanize legislators. But many not only skipped the rally, they weren’t in their offices to receive the posters, either.
“It’s really frustrating that they are not here,” said Michelle Freedman, a Stanwood teacher, who couldn’t find her representatives.
Todd McLaughlin echoed similar sentiments after failing to find his lawmakers. “It’s time to stand up, and they’re not here,” he said.