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Yakima ESPs still fighting for their share of McCleary

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Tiffany Moritz Yakima Association of Paraeducators President
Yakima Association of Paraeducators President Tiffany Moritz

Seven months into the school year, Yakima support professionals have yet to see a dime of last year’s historic McCleary in their paychecks.

That is about to change as members continue to turn up the pressure on administrators who try to delay and deny. Paraeducators recently reached a tentative contract settlement and will vote in mid-March on whether the agreement should be ratified. Negotiations continue for other bargaining units that represent maintenance, food service, secretaries, transportation, technical employees and more.

“This has really drug out for a long time,” Yakima Assoc. of Paraeducators President Tiffany Moritz noted. “And ironically this is Classified (Appreciation) Week. It’s so hard to feel valued when the district that you work for doesn’t want to compensate you.”

On Tuesday (March 12), Yakima’s ESP members hosted a community forum to publicly shed light on the district’s financial deceptions and highlight community support for educators. The event at Yakima’s Eisenhower High School attracted more than 250 community members, parents and education staff.

“Hard-working people are having a hard time making ends meet,” declared Pastor Harry Sharley of the Yakima Seventh-day Adventist Church. He recounted the story of a district paraeducator who also cleans the church for additional money, and yet still can’t afford everyday services like internet. “She does not have the income to make the basic expenses. … And I hope that our lowest-paid workers will get and receive wage increases comparable to the teaching staff.”

Yakima community members sit in an auditorium during a recent community forum about school finances and district priorities.
Yakima community members sit in an auditorium during a recent community forum about school finances and district priorities.

Erika Moore, co-president of the Gilbert Elementary PTA, said she was embarrassed by the school board’s lack of respect for its staff.

“Classified employees are the backbone and foundation of our schools, and it’s a shame that they are having to go to these lengths to be given a fair and honest contract. They aren’t asking for anything that wasn’t given to the district. They are just asking to be treated with respect.”

WEA Researcher Marie Cañas recapped the historic gains under the WEA McCleary school funding lawsuit, including more money for smaller class sizes, full-day kindergarten, transportation, classroom materials and supplies and, most recently, a $2 billion influx to increase salaries.

While Yakima is publicly proclaiming a budget crisis and cancelling student field trips, the district’s own records show instead that administrators have been stashing away millions of extra dollars in budget reserves since school started in September, and have about $3 million more tucked away than at this time last year.

Anne Chapman, an elementary music specialist, said all of Yakima’s support professionals deserve the salary increase promised by the Legislature.

 “We support you and are there for you in your bargaining,” Chapman said. “Just know that you are greatly appreciated: We cannot do what we do without you.”

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