QEA chooses letter-writing campaign over walkout
While their colleagues in nearby Wenatchee and East Wenatchee staged walkouts on Monday, the Quincy School District’s teachers union instead chose to put pen to paper, reaching out to local legislators through a letter-writing rally.
Teacher walkouts closed schools around the state earlier this week as public teachers protested what they say is the state Legislature’s failure to fully fund education, including providing the money to support a voter-passed initiative to reduce class sizes as well as to increase teachers’ salaries for the first time in six years. Moses Lake teachers will stage a walkout on Thursday.
In Quincy, however, teachers last week voted by a 51 percent margin to share their views with legislators via the letter-writing rally, said Heather Jacobson, president of the Quincy Education Association, which has 186 members.
“These issues affect everybody, not just teachers,” Jacobsen said.
After school on Monday, teachers gathered at Westside Pizza for two hours of writing letters and postcards.
In a letter to Sen. Judy Warnick, R-Moses Lake, Gretchen Cedergreen, a teacher at Pioneer Elementary School, asked two questions of the legislator.
Cedergreen wants to know if Warnick had recently spent a day in a classroom, speaking with teachers about the public school environment. She also asked if Warnick or other legislators had taken a sample state SBAC test online so they can understand the frustration of teachers, administrators and students.
“I don’t know if you have time to read these letters, but I do care enough to write,” Cedergreen wrote.
It’s time the Legislature fully fund education, said Nik Bergman, principal at Pioneer Elementary School. Bergman was one of several administrators and school board members who joined the teachers in their letter-writing rally.
“(Legislators) are really good at requiring educators to do more things without actually funding what they are asking us to do,” Bergman said.
Bergman said he supported the letter-writing effort. It brings a more personalized touch, compared to a news clip or a sound bite, he said. It also has less of an impact on those people who teachers are trying to serve than something like a walkout, he added.
“I’m very proud of Quincy for coming to this decision because it doesn’t impact our families,” Bergman said. “But I also fully support what the other associations across the state are asking for.”
Scott Ramsey, principal at Quincy Junior High School, agreed a walkout this late in the school year would have put a hardship on local families and students, who still have much testing to complete this year.
“Taking a day off in the middle of the year would hurt our kids and our school community,” Ramsey said.
He would like to see more support for not only educators but the educational system.
“There’s a lot of negative press but at the same time lots of teachers and educators are working their tails off and not getting respected for it,” Ramsey said.
Also joining in the letter-writing campaign was third-grader Kylie McCarl of Pioneer Elementary School. McCarl was finishing her letter while sitting with the teachers and her mother.
“You are not taking good care of your teachers and students,” she wrote. “When I grow up, I want to be a doctor. If I don’t have good teachers, how will I get a good education?”
— By Jill FitzSimmons, firstname.lastname@example.org