Olympia educators walk out to protest state funding levels

Led by a drum group from Capital High School, hundreds of teachers, staff, parents and students in the Olympia School District marched through downtown along Capitol Way to a rally on the steps of the Legislative Building on Tuesday afternoon.

“We feel it’s important that the Legislature sees what’s important to us,” said Cassie Schweickert, a math specialist at Madison Elementary School.

The Washington State Patrol estimated that between 800 and 1,000 people participated in the event on Capitol Campus, which was part of a statewide “rolling walkout” of teachers who are protesting the Legislature’s funding proposals for education.

“The whole idea on the rolling walkout is to keep continual pressure on the Legislature during the special session,” said Adam Brickell, president of the Olympia Education Association.

So far, thousands of educators in more than 60 districts have held half-day or full-day walkouts, according to the Washington Education Association. Teachers in Yelm will walk off the job for a full day tomorrow, and those in Rainier and Griffin school districts plan half-day walkouts so they can join other districts in an afternoon rally in Olympia.

“I have some (school) board members going, and I’ll be going as well to support the teachers,” Rainier superintendent Tim Garchow said. “We’re going to support our teachers. It’s their rally.”

Olympia Education Association’s rally featured remarks by teachers, union officials, School Board member Allen Miller; Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Olympia; Rep. Sam Hunt, D-Olympia; and Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater.

Fraser thanked all of the students who attended the event.

“You’re getting a lesson today in real political action,” she said.

Brickell said teachers in Olympia and across the state are standing together on three main issues.

“It’s compensation, class size, especially Initiative 1351 — fully funding and implementing it, and tying teacher evaluations to the standardized tests,” he said.

Sunshine Campbell participated in the rally with her two sons. She said she hopes more parents will get involved and support the teachers’ efforts.

“Parents expect the Legislature to adequately fund public education,” Campbell told The Olympian. “… I see way too much blame being put on teachers. In actuality, they’re not getting enough funding in our schools to even do the job.”