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Coupeville teachers rally against state cuts
Coupeville teachers holding signs reading “No more cuts” and “We can’t put students first if the state puts teachers last” gathered at the intersection of Main Street and Highway 20 on Nov. 18 to protest state budget cuts resulting in furlough days.
The Coupeville Education Association organized the demonstration. CEA co-president and Coupeville High School teacher Tacy Bigelow said the mission of the rally was two-fold.
“Most importantly, we’re thanking the local community. They’ve been most supportive but the state keeps cutting. We want to give our students the very best but it’s hard to give the very best when funding is taken away,” Bigelow said.
“We are very glad our district wants to support us and the community wants to support us and we really want everybody to understand the state doesn’t want to support us,” said high school teacher Sandy Moore.
Nov. 18, a half-day of school, was the first furlough day of the school year. In the past, half-days were used for working with students, said middle and high school music teacher Jamar Jenkins.
Teachers decided to use the furlough day to raise awareness that state budget cuts are harming education.
Drivers in passing cars honked and waved at teachers hoisting signs reading, “Enough is enough!” and “Thank you for your support, Coupeville.” Tom Eller held a sign designed by L.D. Eller depicting an apple labeled “education” and “students” being eaten by a worm labeled “legislature.”
“We are taking a stand because what’s happening is most definitely wrong,” said middle and high school teacher Nichelle Gilcrease-Wolfe. Cuts are hurting teachers, students and the country, she added.
“We work really hard so kids don’t know the funding isn’t there but it’s getting harder and harder and we’re all feeling it,” Bigelow said.
Funding cuts result in more crowded classrooms, fewer supplies and more stress, Moore said.
Programs, teachers and support programs have been cut already, said high school teacher L.D. Eller.
Art, music and library programs have been cut, said Bigelow, an art teacher. She likened the continual cuts to boiling a frog slowly so that it doesn’t even notice it’s cooking.
“We want people to notice,” Bigelow said.
Teachers standing at every corner of the intersection agreed that cutting funding for schools is only going to harm students, teachers and education.
“Dumbing down education is not the solution. It’s got to stop,” Gilcrease-Wolfe said, holding a sign that read, “Our students and schools come first.”
“Everybody knows the state’s in bad shape. I think that cutting funding from education should be the last choice. If we want an educated populace for democracy it starts here,” said high school teacher Barbara Ballard.
“I’m tired of teachers being called the problem,” said high school teacher Ryan Grenz, holding a sign that read, “What 3 percent of kids should we not teach?”
“If you keep stealing money from our kids, there are going to be problems in the long run,” Grenz said.
“I don’t think most people know how everything is affected,” Jenkins said.
With more cuts looming in the future, Jenkins said, “I think the public needs to put pressure on legislators to make sure they don’t cut funds for public education. I think education should be off the table for cuts.”
After teaching for 25 years in three school districts, Jenkins said he never had a pay cut until this year.
“The public needs to be aware of what’s going on. I don’t think they know we got a 2-percent pay decrease this year,” Jenkins said.
Bigelow urges the community to contact legislators to tell them to “put kids first and to stand up for their paramount duty for education” and vote for full funding for education.
“We’re very grateful to the Coupeville community,” Moore said, adding that Coupeville is fortunate that its levies pass.
“I hope everybody tells the state to support us, too,” Moore said.
The Coupeville Education Association is looking into what to do for Day of Action, organized by the Washington Education Association, on Nov. 28, Bigelow said.
Regarding the other furlough days in the school year, “I think we’re prepared to come out here every half-day,” Jenkins said.