May 7, 2001
Riverview teachers join rally
by Lisa Allen
Valley View Editor
Riverview teachers and support staff joined their counterparts from the Seattle, Issaquah, Tahoma and Enumclaw school districts in a one-day walkout last week to protest lack of state funding for two education initiatives approved by voters in the November general election.
Initative 728 was to reduce class sizes and I-732 was to give school employees cost-of-living raises.
Teachers and staff picketed at the schools on the morning of May 1, then headed for a mid-day rally at Westlake Park in Seattle. Their aim was to attract the Legislature's attention and get the public's support.
More than 2,000 teachers and supporters, including over 200 from the Riverview District, appeared at the rally, many of them carrying large broken pencils as a visual aid to demonstrate what they call the state lawmakers' "broken promises."
In a prepared statement, Mandy Balsiger, president of the Riverview Education Association, said all three 2001-03 Olympia budgets cancel dollars presently funding schools and use I-728 monies instead.
"That's not what the voters wanted," she said.
Voters also approved a cost-of-living adjustment for all K-12 school employees, but present budget proposals only provide monies for state-funded positions, she said.
While the initiative read "All," they are choosing to only fund some, said Balsiger, adding that dollars to make up the COLAS for unfunded staff will have to come from local levy monies.
"That means cuts to something," she said.
Balsiger said teachers have been driven to this action because they have seen education's percent of the state budget shrink over the years. In addition, she said, more and more are leaving their ranks and the profession that they love because they cannot afford to stay, with salaries that don't keep pace with expenses.
"Most of our beginning teachers have master's degrees, and the starting salary is $28,000," she said. "That is well below starting wages for other fields without the advanced degree."
All Riverview schools were closed the day of the walkout and activities were cancelled, but things were "back to normal" the following day, said a Riverview official.
The walkout added one day to the school schedule for the year. The last day of school is now scheduled for June 26.