Seattle’s Garfield High School (where I graduated from and now teach history) has once again united the students, parents, and educators in common struggle. Last Friday it was announced that our school had until the following Friday, October 24th, to raise $92,000 or else one of the teachers in a core subject area would be displaced. We still don’t know which of us will be targeted for displacement, but we do know the pain of this cut will be severe. As the joint letter to the superintendent from the Garfield staff and PTSA states, “One hundred and fifty students will have no place to go for one period each day, which will inevitably lead to greater class disruptions, absences, and truancy. One hundred and fifty students may not graduate on time.”
What makes this teacher displacement so outrageous is that the school district won’t explain why it is happening–as this King 5 News report makes clear. It is a common disruptive practice of the school district to displace staff at a school if that school does not meet its enrollment projections, however Garfield has exceeded our enrollment projections. What’s worse, the school district is sitting on tens of millions of dollars in their “rainy day” fund, yet is willing to throw our school into chaos over $92,000.
The students at Garfield were the first to raise their voice against this injustice, pledging to walkout of school to stop the district from threatening their teachers. Once the Garfield teachers found out, they moved quickly to organize their own walkout (Send me your letter of solidarity to be read at the rally). The PTSA the voted unanimously to support the walkout and united the whole school in this struggle. On Thursday, October 23rd at 1:50 pm, Garfield High School will empty–to symbolize the impact it will have on 150 students–and the students will get a hands-on civics lesson about organizing against injustice.
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Here then is the press release:
Garfield High School Walkout on 10/23 Over Late Budget Cuts | Walkout at 1:50 pm | 150 Students Affected
Seattle WA, October 22, 2014 – Garfield High School teachers pledged to join a student walkout over the cut of a yet to be specified core subject teacher, in the 9th week into the school year, which will impact 150 student schedules. The walkout is scheduled for 1:50 pm–30 minutes before the end of the school day–on Thursday, October 23. The Garfield High School PTSA and ASG voted to support these actions.
Teachers were shocked, saddened and bewildered to hear this news as Garfield exceeded its projected enrollment this year. The Garfield faculty authorized a letter to the Superintendent and the School Board, outlining the impact of the cut this far into the school year (see the letter below). Teachers are especially concerned about the impact on students’ ability to graduate on time. It is not yet known which core teacher will be cut and this has thrown the entire Garfield community into fear at a time when we should be focusing on how to best support all of our students.
The timing of the walkout, 1:50 pm, symbolizes the impact of cutting one core teacher at this late date. Core classes filled to a capacity of 30 students total 150 students per full-time teacher. This means that 150 students will have holes in their schedules during the day–roughly 10% of the student body.