Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hundreds rally to focus on kids

Several hundred advocates braved the rain this President's Day and marched to the Capitol Steps to convey a simple message: Kids come first.

·          Kids need a great basic education, and most important, kids need it fully funded. Kids need to be kept healthy and safe. And most important, kids need champions. TAKE ACTION

The rally was part of Washington State PTA’s annual Focus Day. This is the day members focus on Olympia and tell our state leaders that kids come first. It is also the day key legislators meet with members to let us know what’s ahead and how we can better focus our work.

The chairman of House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Ross Hunter, helped kick off our rally at noon on the Capitol Steps. He spoke of the recent state supreme court decision that the state was underfunding schools and told us to keep the focus on kids – our work was paying off. The McCleary decision reinforced our association’s years-old strategy to better define basic education so that state allocations aligned with what students needed. Rep. Hunter was on the team that drafted 2009’s basic education funding reform plan, and he told members to continue to speak strongly for its implementation. But he also told members that legislators were relying on us to ensure revenue for health and safety programs.

Also joining us Monday were our 2012 Champion of Children honorees Rep. Marcie Maxwell, deputy majority leader for education and opportunity; and Rep. Bruce Dammeier, ranking minority member of House Education Committee and assistant ranking member of House Ways and Means and House Education Appropriations and Oversight committees. Both spoke to the continuing need to safeguard key concepts of basic education reform, such as implementation of the 24-credit college and career graduation requirements, as well as the difference that strong voices have had on legislators.

Golden Acorn winner, former local PTSA president and treasurer and current Senator Andy Hill reminded everyone just where PTA activism can lead.

President Novella Fraser welcomed members and Legislative Director Shelley Kloba spoke to our association’s impact and history. She also spoke to the 100 or so children present, telling them that even though we spoke a lot about schools and funding, our true goal was to help each of them reach their potential.

All members, whether or not they attended Focus Day, are strongly encouraged to contact their legislators regarding funding for education, as well as programs that keep children healthy and safe. An action alert has been set up: Focus Budget Talks on Kids.

-       Ramona Hattendorf, Washington State PTA government relations coordinator

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