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Rally not just for teachers

When a lone bus rolls out of the South Whidbey High School parking lot at 6 a.m. Jan. 14, it will be the only one driving to a school-related activity that day.

The chartered bus, along with a caravan of cars, will be transporting South Whidbey teachers, administrators and other education boosters to Olympia to deliver a message to Gov. Gary Locke: Fund public education.

The South Whidbey contingent will be joining thousands of teachers, support employees, school administrators, parents and students from more than 100 school Washington districts in a "Day of Action." The rally is intended to convince not only Locke, but legislators to spend more money on public education.

"We want the Legislature to hear loud and clear that our kids and public education are important to us. We want them to fund public education with stability and longevity," said Lynn James, South Whidbey Education Association president.

James says she expects about 140 South Whidbey teachers -- about half the teachers in the district -- to attend the demonstration.

South Whidbey school Superintendent Martin Laster and Assistant Superintendent Dan Blanton also will participate.

"Dan and I will be there to show our support for full funding for education," Laster said this week.

Two members of the South Whidbey Board of Education, Helen Price-Johnson and Bob Riggs, also will be attending the rally.

The governor will be in Olympia the day of the rally to deliver his state of the state address to the Legislature.

A calendar change approved by the South Whidbey Board of Education enables teachers to participate in the rally. The lost school day will be made up on Feb. 14, which was originally scheduled as a day off for students.

Educators have said they want the rally to force the Legislature to abide by voter-approved Initiative 732 and Initiative 728. These initiatives provide cost-of-living adjustments for educators and call for smaller class sizes.

The teachers are getting support from those not professionally involved in education. Langley resident Jim Simpson, a concerned citizen and parent, will be on the charter bus too.

"Public education is pillaged by the state because it is easy prey," he said. "A good public education system is a primary task of all states. Education funding cuts happening across the nation."

Simpson cited a recent report stating New Jersey schools may go to four days a week to save money

One education organization that won't be in attendance is the Washington state Parent-Teachers Association.

Local PTA members are supporting the Washington State PTA board's vote to oppose the Jan 14 rally it encourages a work stoppage that interrupts schooling for many students.

South Whidbey HIgh School PTA president Marti Murphy some individual members of the local organization support the day off. As an alternative to the rally, PTA organizations will visit the Legislature on Feb. 12 to advocate for its platform to protect school funding,

The Day of Action, sponsored by the Washington Education Association, was planned last spring when education funding was put in jeopardy as state legislators tackled the biennial budget. Last year the Legislature cut education by more than $120 million. More cutting is probably on the way, since Washington faces a projected $2.6 billion lag between revenues and expenditures.

Not all school districts sending teachers to the rally will close down. While the Oak Harbor School district will close for the day, Coupeville schools will remain open. That district will send a delegation of community members, administrators and board members to the rally.

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