Teachers rally in Olympia, try to influence lawmakers

OLYMPIA Public school teachers, hundreds of them, swarmed the state Capitol on Saturday.

For awhile, they roamed the halls, looking for their representatives, hoping to corner them.

It seemed most lawmakers were behind closed doors.

So the huge crowd of educators made most of their noise out on the Capitol steps.

Bold red signs clearly stated what these teachers want: Cost of living increases and smaller class sizes.

"Our kids are packed into the fourth most crowded classrooms in the United States," Mary Lindquist, the state teachers union president, said at the rally. "They deserve better."

Public educators feel this rally may be their last chance to influence lawmakers on the last days of the session.

"We need their support because without their support, education will constantly be a struggle and education shouldn't be a struggle," teaching assistant Carie Sauders.

The state Supreme Court, the teachers remind us, decided last year the Legislature was not meeting its constitutional duty to adequately pay for basic education. It's a core element of their message to the politicians.

"When is the last time that they've come and sat and seen what our kids do every day. They don't," teacher Stacy Stoney said.

But teachers did get a morale boost from Governor Jay Inslee, who says he does know what goes on in our public schools.

"Teachers are working hard I've seen it," Inslee said.

The governor, though, isn't calling the shots right now.

The republican-controlled Senate's proposed budget does not include money for reducing class sizes and neither does the version proposed by democrats who control the Housethough the democrats are throwing in money for cost-of-living increases.

Teachers say it shouldn't be their responsibility, "to be constantly always be asking, asking, asking for what is a basic right for these kids to have," Sauders said.

Negotiations over education and the rest of the budget start again Sunday, with lawmakers expected to start a little after noon in Olympia.