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Schools will close for rally

By JODY ALLARD

Staff writer

Next Tuesday, more than 600 Federal Way teachers and students are expected to make their way to local junior highs and high schools to catch one of 17 buses heading to Olympia.

They will join the thousands of supporters rallying in Spokane, the Tri-Cities and Olympia on the statewide Ž“Day of ActionŽ” to voice their support for the investing in public schools.

Federal Way Public Schools will be closed to give educators and families the opportunity to attend the rally.

Ž“It wasnŽ’t simply a case of supporting union strategies in terms of gaining salaries, it is much broader than that,Ž” said district deputy superintendent Mark Davidson. Ž“It is a funding crisis, and we felt we needed to give employees an opportunity to go to the state if they choose to do so.Ž”

Calling it a Ž“crossroadsŽ” for education funding, Davidson said Ž“it made more sense to work with the School Board and ask for their endorsement of at least not having it as a school day than to risk having it be a haphazard day not knowing who is going to show up.Ž”

As legislators battle a state budget deficit expected to climb in excess of $2 billion, and the fates of two voter-approved education initiatives hang in the balance, educators hope to send a clear message to legislators.

Ž“The state constitution is very clear. It says that education is the paramount duty of the Legislature, but the percentage of funding for education has been eroding every year for some time and it just keeps getting worse,Ž” said Mike Lewis, president of the Federal Way Education Association. Ž“Somewhere, somehow, somebody has to figure out a way (that) when we have these economic downswings and upswings, we have some kind of stable funding for education. Regardless of what the economy is like in the state, kids still need to be educated.Ž”

Led by the 75,000-member state teacherŽ’s union, dozens of other groups will be joining educators next Tuesday. Nearly 150 local education associations, representing more than half of the Washington Education AssociationŽ’s members, have chosen to close their offices and attend one of the three rallies.

Educators and parents arenŽ’t the only ones expected to rally in Olympia.

Ž“I think that it is important for me to go,Ž” said Jason Brown, a Federal Way first-grade teacher at Meredith Hill Elementary School. Ž“But parents should be the overwhelming majority of those that march in Olympia because it is their children that are going to be the most affected.Ž”

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