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WEA members meet legislators, learn how to lobby education issues

02/10/2020
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PoliSPARKS 2020 1
WEA members Rep. Steve Bergquist, Rep. Monica Stonier and Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self.

Nearly 50 educators from school districts big and small are in Olympia for WEA’s annual PoliSPARKS event.

During the two-day PoliSPARKS, WEA members learn about the legislative process, politics and WEA’s legislative priorities– and then they lobby their legislators and explore the capitol campus the next day.

On Sunday night, they met for dinner and a Q & A with four legislators. Three of the four legislators are WEA members: Rep. Monica Stonier, Rep. Steve Bergquist and Rep. Lillian Ortiz-Self. Sen. Bob Hasegawa, a longtime Teamster union leader, also joined the discussion.

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Pasco teacher Maria Lee asks lawmakers a question.

Legislators emphasized how important it is for educators to speak out on bills. Bergquist, for example, said many educators had emailed him in support of legislation that will help protect their privacy and safety.

“We’ve been hearing from a lot of you,” said Bergquist, a Renton teacher. “That’s been helpful.”

Desi Saylors, a North Thurston teacher, made legislators an offer.

“If you ever want a classroom to visit, my classroom is open to you,” she told them.

Hasegawa said that when it comes to education policy, he trusts educators.

“If you want to know how to get the job done right, talk to the people doing the work,” he said.

PoliSPARKS participants asked legislators questions on everything from guns in school to paraeducator training to school funding.

“Education is not fully funded,” said Ortiz-Self, a school counselor in Everett. “We’ve come a long way, but we still have work.”

Stonier, an instructional coach in the Evergreen School District, agreed and said the Legislature must increase funding for special education students.

“We have to do better,” Stonier said.

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