OLYMPIA, Wash. -- More than 6,000 teachers, parents and students gathered on the steps of the state Capitol Monday to raise their voices, hoping lawmakers hear their demands for better funding.
Chandra Moon, a classroom paraprofessional from Renton, is working to become a full-time special education teacher. She knows it'll be a challenging job, but she says she's ready.
“There's no question in me, this is definitely what I'm meant to be doing,” Moon said while holding a banner during the rally.
That’s the spirit that drew teachers together on their day off, but they say their resolve is being tested.
“Washington's check to its children has come back marked ‘insufficient funds,’” said Summer Stinson, co-sponsor of Washington Paramount Duty, an organization that’s urging the Legislature to provide more funding for education.
Lawmakers are working to comply with a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling requiring them to fully fund the state's basic education system.
Lawmakers have committed more than $2 billion toward the issue, but there's a big question looming this year: How much should the state provide for teacher salaries?
“If we're going to have teachers doing this work, we've got to pay them professional salaries,” said Karen Runyon, a math teacher from the Cheney School District, near Spokane.
Following the rally, teachers marched to the legislative offices to deliver copies of a student bill of rights, published by the Washington Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union. It says students have the right to learn in a clean, safe, modern space, in small classes, with teachers who are committed and qualified.
Governor Jay Inslee last month unveiled a plan to increase taxes as a way to improve funding for schools.
Republicans in the legislature think a tax hike is unnecessary because they say Washington's economy is growing and existing taxes are helping boost education spending.