More than 300 parents statewide took to the Capitol in Olympia on Feb. 17 to send legislators a message — education funding should be a top priority.
The Washington State Parent Teacher Association organized Focus Day, one day when PTA members visit with legislators and focus on the main issues and concerns that have been identified by the state PTA.
“Focus Day is to let the legislators know … that there are people behind the issues,” said Madeline Herzog, the Edmonds PTA Council representative for the state PTA.
For legislators, the ability to meet and connect on issues is valuable.
“We always want to welcome (citizens),” Sen. Dave Schmidt, R-Mill Creek. “We appreciate them.”
Schmidt said he met with citizens from a variety of areas, and he enjoys hearing about the issues directly from the parents and citizens. Schmidt is the ranking minority member on the Senate’s Early Learning, K-12 and Higher Education committee.
Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, chairs the Early Learning, K-12 and Higher Education committee and agreed that meeting with the parents was important because they represent not only the parents, but also their communities and businesses.
“They really are representing both the people involved in the community and our schools,” McAuliffe said.
Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, said he was impressed with how prepared the parents were.
“I think this is the most effective PTA day I’ve seen,” Dunshee said.
Although he does not sit on an education committee in the House, Dunshee is the chair of its Capital Budget committee, and he believes better school facilities could improve test scores and attendance, among other things.
“I just think we can get better results,” Dunshee said.
This year, one PTA focus was on legislation that would allow voters to decide if the bond and levy voter approval should be changed from a supermajority to a simple majority. While this issue also was addressed during the 2004 legislative session, it may have more support this year, said Dom Amor, co-vice president of legislation for the Shoreline PTA Council.
The state House of Representatives passed a simple majority bill Monday, Feb. 21 with regard to levies only, not bonds. Similar legislation is still currently in the Senate.
Other issues that were of top priority included support for an education funding study to determine the cost of teaching all Washington students, funding for school facilities, programs for highly capable students and education reform.
Almost 20 people from Shoreline went to Olympia for Focus Day, including a handful of students, Amor and fellow co-vice president of legislation for the Shoreline PTA Council Wes Brandon.
Brandon said the trip down was important for PTA to help push their issues, but of equal importance was getting as many people as possible to attend.
Through their presence, they were able to show to the legislators how important education is.
“We put a face on the issues when we go down there,” Brandon said.
The Shoreline PTA Council also distributed bags of fortune cookies to each legislator, he said. While the cookies were probably a surprising treat, the fortunes contained in those cookies was what the council hoped the legislators would remember, he said. Each fortune contained a message about one of the PTA’s priority issues.
PTA members from Edmonds and Everett also attended, some in organized groups and others individually. The agenda for the day consisted of several speakers, including Dunshee and McAuliffe, and then the parents had the opportunity to meet with their legislators.
For parents who could not visit Olympia last week, it is still important to tell your legislators what’s important to you, Dunshee said.
Amor said he believes it is important and valuable for parents to speak up.
“If the PTA’s numbers and voice could be heard, it could be a formidable voice,” he said.