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Proposed budget cuts focus of Marysville protest
MARYSVILLE — Marysville School District administrators, teachers and other staff members were joined by parents and students on the sidewalks of State Avenue near Comeford Park on Thursday, Feb. 16, as they donned red shirts and hoisted signs high to raise awareness among passing motorists and pedestrians alike about the impact of proposed budget cuts to local education.
MSD Superintendent Dr. Larry Nyland and Marysville Education Association President Arden Watson cited the Washington State Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision in McCleary v. Washington, issued on Jan. 5 of this year, which ruled that the state Legislature has not complied with its constitutional duty to “make ample provision for the basic education of all children in Washington.”
“K-12 education has taken $2.5 billion in cuts over the past few years,” Watson said. “The state Legislature needs to figure out a long-term strategy. When will they actually follow the state Constitution?”
The demonstration took place during a shortened school furlough day, which Nyland explained was a result of the 1.9 percent salary reduction imposed by the state Legislature. He added that the Marysville School District has made $21 million in cuts over the past four years. Cuts proposed by the governor for next year would require another $6 million in cuts to the school district, which Nyland and other district officials have pointed out would impact property-poor districts such as Marysville much more than richer school districts.
“Basic education and school equality are our two big hits,” said Nyland, who pointed out that class sizes have already steadily increased due to reductions in force among teaching staff.
During the demonstration, Nyland noted that Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn has called for the appointment of an overseer to supervise the Legislature’s fulfillment of its obligation to state education. While Dorn suggested his own office could keep track of the Legislature, the state House of Representatives has proposed establishing a special legislative committee to do so.
“It really hurts the students, because each teacher has to meet the needs of more and more students,” said Marshall Elementary teacher Christy Robertson. “In addition, each student’s needs are more complex than they used to be. I’m spending as many as 10 hours a day at work, and often working on weekends.”
“Our classrooms are overloaded,” Sunnyside Elementary teacher Debbie Gilmore said. “We need more physical space, because we’re running out. We’ve already lost so much money for supplies that paper is handed to us in batches for the whole year. At the same time, the requirements haven’t changed to reflect that, and have actually become more burdensome. The state Legislature creates more work for us to measure student progress, and we’re losing every year. We want these kids to do their best, but all our resources to make that happen are being taken away.”
Both of Jennifer Nuckols’ sons have attended Marshall, and while 11-year-old Joshua graduated into the 10th Street Middle School, 5-year-old Josiah is still enrolled in the Cooperative Education Program at Marshall. All three stood on the sidewalks of State Avenue to wave their signs at drivers.
“We talk about ‘No Child Left Behind,’ but it’s hard not to leave them behind when they’re not even in school,” Jennifer Nuckols said of the day’s furlough. “My own school experience benefitted so much from things like field trips, and even books, and there’s less and less of those each year, which puts even heavier burdens on the parents. Rather than books, we have to spend our time printing out 45 pages of papers, that will last about a month before they get thrown in the recycle bin. I feel bad for the parents who can’t afford that expense.”
Just as Theresa Sheldon, whose two children go to the Marysville Co-op, asked “how much learning can schools cram into two hours” on furlough days, especially given the state’s requirements for students’ progress, so too did Leif Anderson agree with his fellow 11-year-old student, Joshua Nuckols, who asserted, “When I’m only going to school for two hours on a day like today, I’m spending more time on the bus than I am in school learning. It’s a waste of time.”