Education triumphs in the Mid-Columbia

By the Herald editorial staff

Overwhelmingly, the voters of Eastern Washington -- indeed, of the whole state -- said yes to levy requests for public schools.

It is remarkable that at a time when the economy is in trouble, when many are out of work and the state's governor and the Legislature are talking of cutting public school funding, that voters showed an astonishing willingness to sacrifice for the kids.

State lawmakers face a$2.6 billion shortfall in the remainder of the 2009-11 budget and are scrambling in a time of falling revenues to cut whatever costs they can.

Here in the Mid-Columbia, voters were emphatic that they not only care deeply about public education, they are willing to pay more than their share to support it.

More than their share?

Well, yes.

Court rulings, legislators and the governor agree the state Constitution specifies basic education as the No. 1 responsibility of state government.

The problem is in defining "basic."

Some lawmakers read it as the bare minimum, while many voters look at that bare minimum as grossly inadequate.

That's why they vote for levies.

Levies are supposed to cover extras for the schools.

But over the years those extras have grown to take on important functions that make for the whole person.

Here in the Tri-Cities, we have had a better economic time of it than many other parts of the state.

Still, much attention here is focused on taxes and the role of government in our lives.

Yet look at the initial results of Tuesday's election:

-- Kennewick School District voters approved a two-year, $39.9 million total levy with 62 percent.

-- Richland approved a two-year, $35.6 million levy with 65 percent.

-- Pasco approved a two-year, $37.4 million levy with 56 percent.

-- Finley approved a two-year, $5.1 million levy with 64 percent.

-- Prosser approved a two-year, $6.8 million levy with 71 percent.

-- Kiona-Benton approved a two-year, $4.3 million levy with 60 percent.

-- North Franklin approved a two-year, $3.4 million levy with 67 percent of the vote.

All the levies were replacement levies, meaning they are continuations, usually with adjustments, of taxes the voters already had voted on themselves a few years ago.

About a third of the voters can be counted on to say no to any issue put before them, but the majority here is willing to sacrifice, given the choice, rather than shortchange the next generation.