It was not all that long ago that there was a sense of relief, if not jubilation, that the state Legislature had finally resolved the long-standing challenge of complying with the state Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling to fully fund K-12 education.

Oh, those were the days. To be fair, there were those who said, “hold the confetti until we see how this actually works out.”

Depending on the school district in which you live, the implementation of McCleary is encountering some bumpy roads.

The latest news is the vote by Yakima School District employees to authorize a strike. That does not mean a strike will happen, but it puts the option on the table. A strike in the Yakima School District would not be good. The disruption that would cause would reach surrounding communities, including Kittitas County school districts.

Regardless of your view on public school teacher strikes, it is disconcerting that the implementation of McCleary even potentially leads to school strikes.

The idea was to improve school funding and to create equity across the state, not to spark funding feuds and predictions of financial collapse in individual school districts.

While Ellensburg School District officials have concerns about funding two or three years out, the district and its teachers union reached an agreement on a contract earlier this month. While there are probably disagreements during negotiations, at the end of the process Ellensburg administrations and professional staff have a knack for working things out, something that benefits all of us.

At the moment, it appears that Kittitas County school districts will avoid a level of labor strife reaching a strike. That’s good news for teachers, students, parents and the community at large.

Beyond the financial issues what seems most troubling is the disconnect between school officials and our elected representatives. Our legislators did not quite unfurl the “Mission Accomplished” banner, but they did not seem to anticipate the level of concern the implementation of funding has raised within certain school districts.

There are some signs that the Legislature understands there may be problems. The Yakima Herald-Republic a couple of weeks ago interviewed Yakima area representatives who said there is an understanding there would be issues with the implementation of McCleary to resolve at the next session.

Of course, the next session starts in January and will not be finished until the spring or early summer (depending on the pace of progress). That leaves an extended period of uncertainty and potential for disagreement on the local district level. It is important to note that a school district’s fiscal year runs Sept. 1 to Aug. 31. If the legislative fix is to give district’s greater flexibility on local levy capacity that kick starts a process that potentially would see districts going out to voters that next February for a collection that would start a year later. In other words, it’s not a quick fix.

With any measure as large of the school financing package designed to comply with McCleary, there were bound to be issues with implementation, particularly since few people actually read the legislation before it was passed.

This may well be a case of best intentions gone awry, but that does not change the fact there remains serious work to do to make sure the goal of McCleary — to fully fund K-12 education in an equitable fashion — is accomplished.


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