South End teachers plan protest walk-out

South Whidbey School District teachers will hold a walk-out next week in protest of the state’s lack of funding for public schools.

The walk-out is Wednesday, May 6, but because it was already scheduled as a half-day for students, classes will not be impacted and no end-of-year make up will be required. The afternoon was scheduled as teacher-directed work time, and teachers will make up this time, Superintendent Jo Moccia explained via email.

The teachers will join thousands of other Washington State educators who have staged walk-out protests over the past week.

“By staging a walk-out, we add our voices to all the other districts and communities around Washington State saying our students and teachers deserve better,” wrote Val Brown, spokesperson of the South Whidbey Education Association in an email to The Record. “We want to send a strong message to Olympia: Fund education now.”

Teachers in at least 12 Washington school districts have either already walked out or proclaimed their intent to do so. Others, such as Seattle, Spokane and Everett are considering the action.

Teachers in Bellingham, Ferndale, Blaine, Mount Vernon, Conway and Anacortes walked out on Friday, April 24.

School was closed in Lakewood and Stanwood-Camano school districts Wednesday, April 22.

In Arlington, regular classes were held Wednesday morning but the day ended early for a teachers rally in the afternoon of April 22.

Oak Harbor teachers plan to walk out on Friday, May 1.

Other schools who have scheduled walk-outs include Lake Washington and Sedro-Woolley.

South Whidbey Education Association polled its members last week to determine if a walk-out would occur. Brown wrote that teachers had voted to do so.

“Preliminary budgets proposed by both the (state) Senate and the House of Representatives fall woefully short of fully funding education,” Brown wrote.

She added that the state Supreme Court has ordered the Legislature to make funding education its “paramount duty.”

The Legislature is currently being held in contempt for not complying.

In addition, Washington State voters passed Initiative 1351 in November in favor of reducing K-12 class sizes and adding support staff. The budgets distributed by the Senate, House, governor and state superintendent “ignore” addressing lowering class sizes in grades 4-12, wrote Brown, and only address lowering class sizes in grades K-3.

She added that Washington is currently ranked 43rd in the nation for class size.

She added that fully funding education includes reinstating the cost of living adjustment (or COLA) to teachers’ salaries. Washington State residents voted in favor of this with Initiative I-732, but it has been suspended for the past six years.

These combined factors, along with high stakes testing, has prompted teachers to take action in protest.

Rich Wood, communications organizer for the Washington Education Association, could not be reached for comment.

“Many teachers across our state have decided on a method to take action to demonstrate that the children of the state are not being served and to call attention to the Legislature, governor, etc., that the budgets are not in line with the needs of students,” Superintendent Moccia wrote in an email to parents and school administrators last week. “That is the one day walk-out.”