Dozens of teachers turned out at six events across Seattle to show that education cuts are hurting education.
Chris Barrett didn’t want to be standing on the corner of Southwest Fauntleroy and Alaska Way Southwest in West Seattle Tuesday afternoon.
The 47-year-old special-education teacher at TOPS K-8 would have preferred to be at school, and he would have preferred his twin 6-year-old sons to be there, too.
But budget cuts led Seattle Public Schools to cancel half of the school day, so Barrett stood in the rain with his sons and 30 other protesters, pleading for more money for education.
“The state needs to fund education just like the courts say they do,” said Barrett, referencing a Washington Supreme Court ruling earlier this month that the Legislature is not fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide an adequate education for all.
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The West Seattle event was one of six protests across the city organized by the Seattle teachers union to rally support for more education funding. Despite the court ruling, education cuts are on the table in the current session as lawmakers decide how to address a fresh $1.5 billion revenue shortfall.
While Democrats are calling for a half-cent sales-tax increase and minimal further education cuts, Republicans argue that the state needs to be smarter about how it spends its money on all programs, including education.
In Seattle, the point of Tuesday’s protest, organizers said, was to show that the cuts the Legislature has already made have hurt. The budget passed by lawmakers last year cut 1.9 percent from state funding for teacher salaries. The Seattle school district made up for some of that reduction from other parts of the budget but also agreed on a day and a half of furloughs. The first furlough took place Aug. 31, a teacher preparation day.
The other half day of furlough came Tuesday — the first time in recent memory the district has canceled classes for budget reasons, according to Seattle School Board President Michael DeBell.
In all, the district has cut some $80 million out of its budget over the past three years, DeBell has said. An additional $20 million or more is expected this year.
Those cuts have reduced learning opportunities, said Michelle Pearson, a 44-year-old parent of two at Salmon Bay K-8 who said she came to the protest in Ballard to support the teachers.
“It’s a bigger deal than just school being out today,” Pearson said. “It’s about our future.”
Brian M. Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @brianmrosenthal.