The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Max Erikson

McCleary 'fix' still has challenges


October 4, 2017

Max Erikson

INFORMAL EDUCATION SUMMIT: The Washington House of Representatives Education Committee came to Maryhill Museum Monday for an impromptu discussion on state education. Pictured left to right: Rep. Gina McCabe, Rep. Paul Harris, Goldendale Superintendent Mark Heid, Goldendale School Board member John Hoctor, Rep. Sharon Santos, Centerville Principal Kristen Cameron, and Rep. Norm Johnson.

The "McCleary Fix," passed by state legislatures to amply fund basic education for Washington schools, did more than just cap school districts levy rates to a $1.50 per $1,000 in property value. It also changes the pay structure for teachers and determines salary funding for districts based on a concept called "regionalization factors."

The new law has eliminated the current pay structure known as the "staff mix." It was the formula used to determine state funding for teachers' salaries, based on years worked and level of education.

The new law also increased the salary of first-year teachers to a starting pay of $40,000 with 10 percent increases after five years on the job.

With "regionalization factors," the state will fund districts based on median home property values. Increases in funding will now be determined by median home property values for districts that comprise an area in one region.

The majority of that funding goes toward teachers' salaries, and increases will now fluctuate between six, 12, 18, or 24 percent based on property values in the district. In some cases, teachers would receive those increases to their salary even if they didn't live in the same district.

If you live in a region that has lower property values, teachers would receive between zero and six percent funding for raises. For teachers who live in high property value districts, such as Lake Union or Seattle, a 24 percent increase in pay would be allotted.

For the Goldendale School District, and most others in the surrounding areas, the state has determined that there will be a zero percent increase to funding for teachers.

Superintendent Mark Heid says, "This is just another thing that will make it harder to get and keep teachers to stay in Goldendale."

"Because of the regionalization factor, we have been determined-by the state-a district that doesn't need assistance," Heid says. "The higher-end districts will get the increase but we will get no extra funding."

Another problem facing superintendents in the region is getting a handle on the removal of the "staff mix" structure. The removal of that structure now puts the burden on districts to determine how funding dollars will be dispersed to teachers.

By removing the "staff mix," school districts will now negotiate salaries with teachers, based on the budget they will have from dollars the state is giving back after the levy swap.

Heid says this can be a problem, because subjects in high demand such as math, science, and special education, may lead to a negotiation battle for pay, because teachers in those subjects are desperately needed.

"We really want to do what is best for everybody," Heid says. "But teachers should not be penalized for where they work...our teachers work just as hard as every other teacher in the state and deserve to have equal pay."

By eliminating the "staff mix" formula-with teachers receiving annual pay raises-some teachers may find their salaries will remain stagnate, aside from cost-of-living raises.

Now, pay increases will come after a teacher completes higher education credits, attains a master's or doctorate degree, or after five years on the job.

Dr. Jack Irion, superintendent for Yakima Valley School District, says this will make it harder for his district to hire and keep teachers as well.

"This new model just pays rich districts more money, and poor districts will get less," Irion says. "There is something fundamentally wrong with that basically treats teachers differently based on where they live or teach."

There is a "hold harmless" clause that was crafted in the legislature's McCleary fix that says it guarantees districts will receive no less funding then they would have received before the new plan is implemented.

Meaning, districts who are negatively impacted by the new funding plan will be compensated for lost dollars due to less money generated by local school levies.

Yet, the specifics on how the "hold harmless" clause will make up for the shortfall of money from local levy dollars is still unclear, leaving school districts uncertain about a potential funding problem.

The Washington Supreme Court will take up the issue this month to determine if the legislature's new funding plan has, or will accomplish the goal of amply and fully funding basic education for public schools.


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