Northwest News

Yelm teachers rally against lawmakers

Holding signs with the words “On Strike Against Legislature” and “Good Schools Require Good Funding,” about 200 teachers gathered in Yelm City Park on Wednesday morning for a rally.

Several members of the Yelm Education Association also planned to join teachers from other districts, including Griffin and Rainier, to carry their message to the steps of the Legislative Building in Olympia later in the day.

“It’s time for the Legislature to stop ignoring the Supreme Court ruling and fully fund education,” said Toni Sadlowski, a fourth-grade teacher at McKenna Elementary School. “…Stop balancing the state budget on the backs of educators.”

So far, more than 60 teacher unions, by far the majority in the Puget Sound area, have held half-day or one-day walkouts. Teachers in North Thurston, Olympia and Tumwater held walkouts earlier this month.

Organizers say the top three issues are teacher compensation, class size and proposals that would link teacher evaluations with students’ standardized test scores.

Yelm High School history teacher LaTasha Johnson said the students at her school have used 26 days of instructional time for standardized tests this year. That doesn’t include time that students use outside of school to take the PSAT, SAT, ASVAB or other college or career readiness exams, she said.

Johnson said the increased emphasis on assessments is putting too much pressure on kids, and recalled a story that a colleague told her about a kindergartner who ended up crying at school due to stress from standardized tests.

“Five years old, crying because they’re stressed is unacceptable,” Johnson said. “That’s a shame. Shame on them (the Legislature).”

Washington Education Association president Kim Mead said she’s been asked several times if her organization instructed locals to conduct the walkouts. She said it didn’t and added that each walkout or job action was locally organized by teachers.

“You’re standing up for students today,” Mead told the Yelm teachers. “You’re standing up for your community, and people get that.”