Orcas Island students benefit from legislative action | Guest Column

Carol Sutton and Tom Baldwin

As we described in our previous two-part article, published in the Sounder on Feb. 14 and 28, we have been invited to serve on a Budget Advisory Committee for the Orcas Island School District. In our role as citizen advisors with no connection to the school, we feel obliged to keep our fellow Orcas Islanders informed about the district’s budget and how that budget is being impacted by legislative actions.

In our first report to you, referenced above, we pointed out the potential negative consequences of HB 2242 (aka the McCleary bill), passed last summer and signed by Governor Inslee, if it were to go into effect next September. We also pointed out that the legislature was working on a “fix” to HB 2242, known as SB 6362, and that if SB 6362 were passed, much of the negative impact of HB 2242 would be alleviated. We are delighted to inform you that one week ago, March 8, at the end of the current legislative session, the legislature did pass the fix bill, as well as a companion 2017-19 Supplemental Operating Budget known as SB 6032.

These companion bills largely fix the negative aspects of the original McCleary bill, other than the “regionalization” program that we mentioned earlier in which the San Juan Islands are included with the Skagit Valley area for purposes of computing property values and cost of living. Last Thursday evening, as the legislature was considering these bills, Senator Kevin Ranker observed from the Senate floor that the legislation, while not perfect, is a vast improvement. He specifically called out the regionalization program and commented on linking San Juan County and Skagit County, while it is not likely that a teacher could live in Skagit County and work on Orcas Island. Senator Ranker stated his desire to work next year on a legislative fix to the regionalization program, an effort that would definitely benefit teachers and staff at Orcas Island School District.

In summary, the passage of SB 6362 largely fixes the negative consequences of HB 2242 that we outlined in our earlier report. There will be a number of changes to funding streams that will result from this legislation, however, and the BAC will have plenty of work to do over the next few weeks as the district develops its 2018-19 budget. As the process unfolds, we will endeavor to keep you informed.