Hundreds of students from Seattle, Washington high schools walked out of classes on Wednesday afternoon to protest education cuts of over $400 million to K-12 and higher education budgets proposed by the state legislature.
Local Seattle outlet King Five News reported one student saying, "You cut school... we cut class."
The high school students marched to the University of Washington where they converged with college students for the afternoon rally. The university system faces cuts of $160 million and students told King Five News that the quality and affordability of their education have already been tattered by previous cuts. "I've been booted out of classes cause class sizes are at their max," said attendant at the rally. "The amount of loans [students] have to get to get an education is ridiculous," said another.
Video footage from the rally shows educator and activist, Jesse Hagopian, calling for recognition that while the state budget batters education funding it continues to grant large tax breaks to corporations and coddle big banks while it ignores the needs of the bottom ninety-nine percent. He congratulated the students on taking a stand as they refused to pay "for the mistakes of adults":
Earlier this month, Grant Bronsdon and Sam Heft-Luthy, seniors at Seattle's Garfield High School, gave voice to their frustrated classmates with an op-ed in the Seattle Times:
Public-school students from around the state have been irrevocably harmed by past education cuts and cannot bear any further damage.
The state constitution says "it is the paramount duty of the State to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders," yet the state has massively failed to live up to its constitutional obligations in past years.
Last year's court ruling said, "The State does not provide its public schools stable and dependable ample resources to equip all children with the basic knowledge and skills mandated by this State's minimum education standards."
School officials quoted in the Seattle Times seemed to sympathize with the student's anger, but were not supportive of the walkout. Their statement, in part:
“We certainly appreciate our students’ involvement and interest in the state’s current funding issues, especially K-12 funding. We are proud of our civic-minded students. However, we encourage our students to stay in class… Discipline is up to the principal’s discretion. Typically, absences are excused with parent/guardian permission.”
It was not clear how many students participated in the walkout with or without their parents' permission.
Students of Washington for Change, a student-led organization working for student's rights, issued a statement thanking those who participated, acknowledging the battle ahead, and urging action:
Take a minute to contact your Representative and let them know that public education is still a critical service and it needs to be funded - or else the future might be different than we hope.
Better than that, however, was hearing the students speak for themselves: