North Thurston teachers rally to support education funding

About 175 South Sound educators rallied on the pedestrian bridge over Capitol Way in Olympia on Wednesday evening.

The event was sponsored by the North Thurston Education Association, a union that represents teachers in Thurston County’s largest public school system.

Some passing motorists honked and waved in support of the teachers which held signs with the words “It’s time to fund public education,” “It’s time to fund lower class sizes” and other messages.

“We’re getting some good reaction,” said NTEA President Conni Van Hoose.

The event was to “bring awareness to the Legislature that they really need to make some good decisions for kids, and they need to fully fund education,” Van Hoose said.

Teachers from the Shelton School District, as well as administrators from North Thurston Public Schools, also participated in the the rally.

NTEA represents 938 teachers in Thurston County’s largest school district. The top three issues that its members want lawmakers to address in the budget are smaller class sizes, health care benefits and a cost-of-living increase for teachers, Van Hoose said.

The rally comes at a time when thousands of teachers around the state are staging walkouts in protest of legislative budget plans for education.

Kathy Beach, who teaches third grade at Horizons Elementary School in Lacey, said she hopes the event conveys a message to lawmakers that it’s time to fully fund education.

“In my opinion, they are not doing their job,” she said. “They were given a directive from the courts, and they are halfheartedly fulfilling it.”

Beach said she also worries that lawmakers will try to strip bargaining rights from educators. She said that’s what has happened in other states, such as Wisconsin, Illinois and Kansas.

“I want to make a stand,” she said. “I don’t want to strike because in our contract, striking is against the district and we’re not upset with the district. We’re upset with the legislators.”