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Originally published November 30, 2011 at 9:08 PM | Page modified December 1, 2011 at 7:21 AM

Garfield students protest more cuts to schools

State legislators considering further cuts to education to close a $2 billion state budget shortfall have already heard from a variety of school administrators and advocates.

Seattle Times education reporter

quotes Get 400 to march on Saturday, then I will believe it was not about skipping class. Read more
quotes Last year in California I watched with disgust as teachers herded students through town... Read more
quotes Lets be honest,money isn't the problem. The per student spending is more than 12k/yr... Read more

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State legislators considering further cuts to education to close a $2 billion state budget shortfall have already heard from a variety of school administrators and advocates.

On Wednesday, a new group sought to insert itself into the discussion: students.

About 400 of them walked out of Seattle's Garfield High School and over to City Hall to make a statement about the importance of public education.

"Our goal is to broadcast a message to Seattle and to Washington state that education is an inherent right and reducing the budget for education not only harms us, but harms future generations," said Jared Moore, one of several students who organized the rally.

Moore, a 16-year-old junior, noted that while the march took them to City Hall, the protesters are not upset with Seattle's government. Education funding is dictated by the state Legislature.

Lawmakers began a special session this week to address the budget shortfall. Legislators have already made substantial cuts over the past three years, leading Seattle Public Schools to cut some $80 million from its operating budget, according to district officials.

Those cuts have hurt, said Jessica Markowitz, a 16-year-old junior holding a sign that read "Fund our Future." She pointed to canceled programs and increased fees for night school and summer school.

Markowitz skipped Spanish 4 to attend the rally, but she said the protest was not about cutting class.

"We're willing to miss one day because the impact of the cuts is bigger," she said.

The protest was inspired by Garfield history teacher Jesse Hagopian, said Markowitz and others.

Police escorted Hagopian out of the state Capitol in Olympia on Monday after he attempted a citizen's arrest of state legislators he said were failing to meet their constitutionally obligated duty to fund basic education.

The teacher was arrested, and his students came up with the idea for the protest while he was still in custody.

Hagopian did not participate in the protest Wednesday. No adults did.

As the students marched, they chanted: "No more cuts" and, "We're the future of the nation — no more cuts to education." At City Hall, they met with a handful of students from West Seattle, Roosevelt and Nathan Hale high schools.

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn welcomed the students on the steps of the building.

"I'm proud of you for speaking out. I'm 100 percent with you. Now it's time for Olympia to step up," he said.

The students then gave a few speeches of their own.

The students plan to hold events with other high schools across the city to keep the issue in the public eye, said Grant Bronsdon, president of Garfield's student government.

"We're not just a bunch of kids skipping class, being rowdy," Bronsdon said. "We're a bunch of kids with a message."

Brian M. Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or brosenthal@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @brianmrosenthal.

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