Janna Carter opened a can of tuna. Paul Sheridan paddled a canoe.
They are both participants in the “One Arm Tied Behind Your Back” challenge to raise money for the Orcas Island Education Foundation. Volunteers are asked to perform an activity with only one arm, film it and post it on social media.
“The success of OIEF stretches over 30 years,” said Vice President Janet Brownell. “It has filled in small gaps and massive craters of need in our schools. In one memorable year, the school district was in a dire position because of a almost non-existent fund balance. Faced with losing an inconceivable number of staff members, OIEF raised almost $250,000 within months to save vital programming.”
The summer fundraising event works like this: take a video of yourself doing something with one arm tied behind your back; challenge friends to make their own recording; post your video on Facebook and tag it with #HelpOrcasSchools and #OIEF; share you video on YouTube at “OIEF One Arm Tied Behind Your Back Challenge”; and finally, donate at www.oief.org or OIEF, POB 782, Eastsound, WA 98245.
This past year, OIEF funded theater in the high school, art classes k-6, STEM guitar building, scholarships for the middle school trip to Washington DC and the debate club.
“Now that the school district is in much better financial condition, OIEF can look to funding programs that not only enhance the already superior education at the OISD but also allow our students to soar,” Brownell said.
A recent example is the theater as lit class. Two years ago, the OIEF board approached high school Principal Kyle Freeman about creating a theater program. Since the school does not have a credentialed theater arts teacher, Freeman suggested the high school offer “Theater as Lit” as an English class. Val Hellar teaches the curriculum and Jake Perrine coaches students in performance. The school pays for Hellar’s salary and the education foundation pays for Perrine and the use of Orcas Center.
“It is a brilliant partnership,” Brownell said. “And I have seen students I thought would never to set foot on a stage absolutely blossom in this program. Next year, if our fundraising is successful, Jake will be taking on middle school students through an OIEF-funded exploratory.”
Why the one-arm challenge?
Legally and constitutionally, the state is expected to fund basic education, but Washington has repeatedly neglected to do so. A lawsuit was filed by the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools in 2007 on behalf of two Washington state families with school aged children: the McClearys and the Venemas. The King County Superior Court oversaw the trial, which began in 2009, and mandated that the state must “proceed with real and measurable progress to establish the actual cost of amply providing all Washington children with the education mandated… and must comply with the Constitutional mandate to provide stable and dependable funding for such costs.”
The state then appealed the court’s decision. The case of McCleary v. State of Washington, taken to The Washington State Supreme Court in 2012, determined that the state had not been fulfilling its constitutional requirement of funding basic education.
The state has been given until 2018 to fully fund basic education, and has not even begun to do so, leaving each school district to continue funding its programs. The Washington State Supreme Court held the State in contempt in 2014 for failing to make the required progress. In August 2015, when the state failed to demonstrate any progress toward the 2018 goal, or any plan for doing so, the Supreme Court began fining the state $100,000 a day until it complied.
“In a nutshell, public education is under-funded in Washington state,” Brownell said. “Our schools are not failing, but they are tasked to educate children with one-arm tied behind their backs.”