SEATTLE - Thousands of teachers marched and rallied through downtown Seattle on Tuesday as part of a one-day strike to encourage Washington lawmakers to put more money into the state education budget.
The march marked the largest teacher strike so far in the state of Washington this year, with more than 6,000 teachers and support staff partaking in the strike. They are hoping parents will call their lawmakers to tell them to find the money to pay for smaller classes, teacher raises and other public school needs.
Teachers in Seattle, Issaquah and Mercer Island took Tuesday off work. Some of them came to downtown Seattle for the march, gathering at the base of the Space Needle at the Seattle Center before marching toward Westlake Center.
Participants held signs, demanding that state lawmakers meet the Washington State Supreme Court mandate to fully fund public schools.
"I think it's getting through to people. I just hope it's getting through to the legislature," said Meghan Schusger, a Seattle elementary school teacher.
Participants wore red in solidarity, and said they were not only marching for themselves, but for their students.
"I've got 160 students tomorrow, I want them to have help," said Robert Murphy, math teacher at Franklin High School.
Those who worked, lived or just found themselves on the march route took time to watch the marchers and hear their message.
"People got a right to speak out what they feel and how they feel," said John Reilly. "They should get out there and let people know."
David Markovich, owner of Belltown Barber on 2nd Avenue, agreed.
"As long as they're sending a good message and they don't break any windows, I'm all for them," said Markovich.
The march came to a halt at Westlake Center, where organizers planned a rally.
Teachers, parents, politicians and supporters of the cause took the stage and called for lawmakers to do their job.
"You don't deserve an 11% increase, because you're not doing your job," Tisha Held, a mother of a student at Orca K-8, said of politicians in Olympia. She added that politicians need to resolve their issues and think about the students, including Held's daughter. "Her education is very important to me, and I am willing to pay taxes or levies if they use it properly and continue to support my daughter's future."
The WEA says nearly 60 teacher union have held or plan to hold their own one-day walkouts. Teachers in more than a dozen districts have protests planned for later this week, including Everett, Mukilteo and Bellevue.
Teachers began gathering at the base of the Space Needle at Seattle Center Tuesday morning. KING 5's Michael Konoposek and Jesse Knutson followed the teachers march and tweeted updates at @MikeKonopasek and @JesseKnutsonTV.