The is held their annual Breakfast of Champions fundraiser this morning at Mercer Island High School in front of a record crowd.
Around 540 guests — including State Attorney General Rob McKenna, State Senator Steve Litzow (R-Mercer Island), and several local and officials — filled the high school gym at an event hosted by KING5 TV News anchor and graduate Jean Enersen.
"I'm proud of being a Mercer Island graduate and I'm sure you all are too," she said.
The breakfast fundraiser is part of the schools foundation's broader campaign, called Bridge the Gap, that began Jan. 1 to raise an estimated $1.2 million to preserve local funding for 20 teaching positions. Last year, the MISF raised $850,000 to preserve 14 teaching positions.
Awed by the size of the crowd and hundreds of thousands of dollars in pledges, MISD Superintendent Dr. Gary Plano recognized their support as a critical factor in the school district's ability to achieve their strategic goals of preparing graduates for careers in the 21st Century, called the "2020 Vision". To accomplish those goals, Plano was inspired by this year's State of the Union Address delivered by President Barack Obama and said the district needed to retain all their teachers to spark the creativity and spirit of its students (see Supt. Plano's ).
"I was struck by the phrase the President used," he said. "He spoke about Americans being in a race to 'Win the Future' ... I know that no matter what challenges we face as a public school district, we will work together to retain all our outstanding teachers so the we can 'Win the Future' for our children."
The need for the additional money is the result of deep cuts in state education funding as the public sector continues to experience the effects of the broader economic recession. Facing an estimated $5.3 billion shortfall for the next biennium, the State Legislature plans to deeply cut into education funding. Cuts in state education funding began in 2007 and MISF Executive Director Penny Yantis said the shortfall could reach up to $2 million for Mercer Island School District this year, depending on which budget proposal is adopted in Olympia.
Yantis said the community has generously contributed in the past and the foundation had made a greater effort this year to expand their base of support across the community. Boeing and were major donors at the event, in addition to several Mercer Island businesses, but individuals still make up the lion's share of donations. Yantis hopes the giving spirit will continue through June 1 when the fundraising comes to a close.
"Everyone in this room is a champion for our schools," she said.