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January 24, 2012 at 1:21 PM

Seattle teachers use furlough time to protest budget cuts

About two dozen Seattle teachers in West Seattle protest state education budget cuts on Tuesday.

Seattle Public Schools teachers, free for the afternoon because of furlough time, took to the streets Tuesday afternoon to protest state budget cuts to K-12 education.

The teachers, many wearing red “for ed,” gathered at six spots across the city in an attempt to show the effect of the cuts.

The half-day furlough resulted from the Legislature’s decision last year to cut 1.9 percent from state funding for teacher salaries. Seattle Public Schools made up for some of that reduction from other parts of the budget but also agreed on a day and a half of furloughs. The first furlough took place Aug. 31, a teacher preparation day.

“We’re out here saying, ‘fund us.’ We understand there has to be a balanced budget, but there are probably some other places where you can balance the budget besides on the backs of school children,” said Kim Depew, a math teacher at West Seattle High School. Depew was standing among some 30 others at the junction to West  Seattle — Southwest Fauntleroy and Alaska Way Southwest.

Tuesday’s furlough marked the first time in recent memory the district closed school for budget reasons, Seattle School Board President Michael DeBell said at an executive committee meeting Tuesday morning.

The Washington Supreme Court ruled earlier this month that the state is not fulfilling its constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education. But with the Legislature debating how to address a fresh $1.5 billion shortfall, more education cuts are still on the table.

“Legislators don’t seem to be getting the message: they must come up with more revenues for public education,” said Jonathan Knapp, vice president of the Seattle teachers union, which organized the protest. “They don’t seem to understand that when they don’t fund schools, schools can’t run.”

The six locations: Martin Luther King Jr. Way South and Rainier Avenue South; Northwest Market Street and 15th Avenue Northwest in Ballard; Northeast 45th Street and Northeast Sandpoint Way near University Village; Southwest Fauntleroy and Alaska Way Southwest in West Seattle; Broadway Avenue East and East Pine Street on Capitol Hill and Northeast Northgate Way and 1st Avenue Northeast at Northgate Mall.

Seattle students who have been organizing their own protests were planning to wear red Tuesday to show solidarity with teachers.

Comments | More in Education, General news | Topics: budget cuts, furlough, protest

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