About 500 Washingtonians used their Presidents Day to gather at the Capitol Campus on Monday and demand equity in education, without sacrificing other services.
While others watched, the group formed a human chain several people thick stretching from the Legislative Building to the Temple of Justice. Many carried signs demanding access to education, affordable housing and health care.
Sumner resident Quhaar Ferreria-Allah, 12, said he and his family drove from Sumner to promote equity and to make sure people have what they need. He carried a sign that read, “Youth are the solution not the problem.”
“Things are getting really messed up, so we’re here to speak up,” Quhaar said. “Youth are the future of this nation.”
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal addressed the crowd and said lawmakers should adequately fund education without cutting other state-funded programs.
“We are here today because democracy does not live in the past,” Reykdal said. “It’s an action; it’s an everyday statement about who we are as a people.”
Julianna Dauble, a Renton teacher, urged the crowd to support teachers and urged teachers to go beyond the requests for additional funding.
She said it is teachers’ job to call out racism and ensure that all students are given a quality education.
“Even if we get ample funding, our work is not done,” Dauble said.
According to a press release, several education, labor and social justice groups attended.
Throughout the rally, the crowd chanted in English and Spanish. The chant, “Aqui estamos y no nos vamos,” translates to, “We are here and we’re not going.”
As the group linked arms, they chanted, “What do we want? Equity. When do we want it? Now.”
Education has been a hot topic in the Legislature since the McCleary decision in 2012 — and Republicans and Democrats have different plans for how to tackle the education-funding crisis.
In the McCleary case, the state Supreme Court has said the state must stop using local school district property tax levies to pay the salaries of teachers and other school employees, saying they are basic education costs that should be borne by the state.
The fix favored by GOP leaders in the state Senate would impose a new statewide property tax to replace local school levies, while providing extra payments as needed to ensure each district receives a minimum funding level of $12,500 per student.
Democrats who control the state House have criticized the Republican plan as raising property taxes for too many Washingtonians, while not investing enough new money in schools.
Democrats have proposed spending about $7.3 billion over the next four years to boost what the state pays to hire teachers, administrators and other school employees.
The Senate, which is controlled by a coalition of 24 Republicans and one conservative Democrat, passed the school-funding plan favored by Republicans last month.
The House is expected to vote on the Democratic plan this week.
The ultimate solution will have to be hammered out by House and Senate leaders as they work to resolve their differences in the upcoming months.
The plan supported by the mostly Republican Senate majority would cost an estimated $2 billion less than the Democratic plan over the next four years.
Melissa Santos contributed to this report.