A Mercer Island High School (MIHS) duo helped lead the local charge at Day on the Hill on Jan. 29 in Olympia.
Mercer Island School District (MISD) student representatives to the board Asha Woerner and Ava Zhang joined Superintendent Fred Rundle, Special Services Director Sue Ann Bube and school board directors to discuss critical education funding with 41st legislative district lawmakers, Sen. Lisa Wellman and reps Tana Senn and My-Linh Thai. The trio’s district covers Mercer Island and several nearby cities.
While on the capitol campus, the Island delegation visited its reps’ offices and delved into the bills that the locals support.
“We talked about the importance and cost of inclusive learning and the possibility of raising the local levy cap. We were able to network with legislators and prepare them for budget items that we would want from the long session next year,” said Woerner, a senior.
To keep traversing a solid educational path, Zhang, a junior, explained that schools gather funding from federal and state dollars and local levies and bonds.
Zhang said she gained inspiration from her Olympia experience by getting a closer look at the legislators in action within the confines of the capitol. After attaining a new understanding of policies and bills, she hopes to share that knowledge with the Island community.
“I was able to see the connection between the adoption of policies and their implications on society and in real life,” she added. “I can take what I have learned back to implement in MISD by listening to the community and helping campaign and expand my advocacy efforts for policies that prioritize equitable education for all.”
Woerner gave a rundown of what she gleaned in Olympia and what she hopes to achieve back on the Island: “The knowledge that I can bring back to MISD is how to lobby for what they want. Networking before the legislative session and checking in throughout the session is the best way to stay top of mind with legislators.”
On her Facebook page, Senn said she experienced a busy and inspiring week on the hill, both meeting with school district board members and student reps and passing her zero-emission school bus bill out of Appropriations Committee. Also on social media, Wellman noted that after meeting with school boards and students, legislators are “working hard to make sure we deliver.”
Rundle said attending Day on the Hill is a great opportunity for students and board members to visit the 41st legislators on “their turf” in Olympia following Senn and Wellman’s recent participation in a linkage session on the Island.
“I think the Day on the Hill is a step in a very important process in building relationships with our representatives and I feel grateful to be a leader in the 41st. We’ve got three great supporters of education, so it’s a great conversation to have and they’re always open to ideas and listening,” he said, adding that Senn and Wellman are also Island residents.
MISD school board president Deborah Lurie said the Islander student reps did a stellar job leading the way in advocating for education funding at Day on the Hill.
Lurie reflected on the locals’ experience in Olympia: “It’s really to bring awareness and our needs to our legislators so it’s right there in their mind when they’re doing their work.”
As tremendously underfunded school districts statewide face a massive challenge securing dollars, Lurie said, “We just want to bring faces to the dollars and make sure that our legislators really understand what we need and why we need it.”
For more information on the MISD school board, visit https://www.mercerislandschools.org/school-board/school-board-information.