Educators find fault with Legislature

"The State Legislature took a few lumps at the last South Whidbey School Board meeting.Special guest was Dr. Jerry Jenkins, superintendent of Educational Service District 189. South Whidbey and 34 other area school districts are members of the ESD, which is based in Mount Vernon. Jenkins' main business was to explain the role of the ESD, but having just come from Olympia he critiqued the Legislature.In just a couple of comments, Jenkins accused the Olympians of strictly adhering to Initiative 601, which put a cap on state spending several years ago, while not following the dictates of two education initiatives approved by voters last November. I-728 told the Legislature to spend millions more dollars to reduce class sizes, while I-732 guaranteed teachers an annual cost of living pay increase. It is estimated that I-728 will provide South Whidbey schools $4 million over the next five years if fully implemented by the Legislature.As for I-732, Gov. Gary Locke has budgeted only enough money to provide pay increases to teachers on the state salary schedule. He does not include other teachers paid for by federal or local funds. According to the South Whidbey Education Association, making up the difference will cost South Whidbey $42,000 next year.Voters wanted their money to go to education, but 601 was a mandate, somehow, and the education initiatives aren't, said Jenkins. With a foggy glass we're viewing the issues. Referring to his day spent in Olympia he quipped, It's nice to come back to a place where people are sane.Scott Mauk, president of the Education Association, later urged the school board and public to pressure their representatives to fully fund the education initiatives, and warned that teachers are starting to leave this state for better pay in neighboring states. A lot needs to happen real fast, he said, adding that Legislature is just now getting around to serious work on the budget. The battle's going to begin in how to carve up the pie, so take action now. "

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