Shortly before Gov. Chris Gregoire's inauguration day speech today, hundreds of teachers, parents and school officials held a rally just across the street.
Their message: despite the state's budget shortfall -- which Sen. Joe Zarelli on Wednesday suggested could rise to $7.5 billion over the next two years -- education is not the place to cut.
"We're not here for us," one organizer said. "We're here for the kids."
The president of the state teachers' union, Mary Lindquist, reminded the crowd of a similar rally held on the same ground, same day, 6 years ago. Some things, like who's governor, have changed since then, she noted.
"The one thing that hasn't changed is that our classrooms are still underfunded and our students are still not getting the resources they need for their future," Lindquist said.
She blasted those who suggest that, given the state's economic crisis, schools should be happy with the money they're getting.
"Those people are wrong," she said. "We must say to them that this is the best time to invest in education."
She urged teachers and school advocates to make sure Olympia hears that message.
"You have staked a righteous place to plant your feet and stand firm," she told the crowd.
Look for lots more demonstrations -- state workers, teachers, advocates for the poor -- in the coming weeks.