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Walkouts Grow; Sen. Hill "Puzzled," says Budget Plans are "Phenomenal"

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WEA_3096Educators across the state are staging one-day strikes against the Legislature over inadequate school funding, but the lead Senate budget writer doesn’t understand why.

“Sen. Andy Hill, who represents Kirkland and is a chief budget writer in the Senate, said the timing of the walk-out(s) is puzzling, as either budget proposal would be “phenomenal for education…” wrote the Kirkland Reporter newspaper.

Despite Hill’s puzzlement, educators are protesting the House and Senate budget plans for failing to fund smaller class sizes as required by voter-approved I-1351, which is now law and part of the state’s obligation to fully fund basic education.

And after six years with no state COLA and five years with no increase in health care funding, educators also are protesting budget proposals that fail to provide the competitive pay and benefits needed to recruit and retain qualified school staff. Legislation limiting local control of school districts, along with the misuse of standardized tests, also are top concerns.

IMG_0164Gov. Jay Inslee said he didn’t condone walkouts, but conceded educators have a reason to protest.

“I really understand deeply the profound frustration of teachers who have been denied any COLA for years now. The Legislature right now is going to get an 11 percent COLA while the teachers are having to dig in their own pockets to buy colored pencils for their kids,” Inslee told the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, the current special legislative session is set to end May 28, and the Legislature appears to be no closer to a final budget agreement. A second special session is likely.

Last week, educators in the Moses Lake, Pasco, Richland, Kennewick, Kiona-Benton, Columbia and Highline school districts walked out. The list of walkouts stands at 64 – for now. More locals are voting girlin the next few days, and the sense of urgency and frustration with the Legislature is growing.

“Our students have a constitutional civil right to a quality public education; unfortunately, our elected leaders in Olympia are placing that civil right in jeopardy,” said Jeremy Pitts, Moses Lake Education Association president. “We have won court cases, worked hard to pass initiatives, held rallies and marches, met with legislators, attended town halls, written letters and emails, and made phone calls. Yet the Legislature is still failing to fulfill its paramount duty to amply fund public education.”

During walkouts and at rallies, support from parents and students has been strong.

“I am glad I get to go to school, and I think this walkout is important and exciting. Thank you people that are trying to make schools better,” said Lola Stephens, a first grader in University Place.

Get the latest walkout updates by text! Text ourvoice to 41411.

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