YAKIMA - Did Educational Service District 105 overstep its authority by assisting a private daycare?
That's the crux of a debate over a finding the publicly-funded agency recently received from state auditors.
In an audit report released recently, the Washington State Auditor's office issued a finding against ESD 105 for assisting privately operated child care centers in east Yakima.
ESD 105 serves 25 public schools in south central Washington, including the Lower Valley, and according to auditors overreached when it gave money from a $600,000 private grant to day care centers to improve their facilities.
"State law does not grant authority to ESDs to operate projects that improve private child care facilities that are not related to direct services to or in public schools," auditors stated in the finding against ESD 105.
In response, ESD 105 issued a formal disagreement to the audit finding, noting its Child Care Facility Improvement Project is part of a series of grants it has administered for east Yakima over the past five years.
ESD 105's official response to auditors noted the focus of distributing the private grant money - which includes support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation - is geared towards helping pre-school students in east Yakima prepare for kindergarten.
The agency asserts it is within its boundaries because it claims east Yakima is one of the most "poverty distressed" neighborhoods in the Yakima School District.
As a result, ESD 105 says it is following state law that says ESDs are intended to "assist in providing pupils with equal educational opportunities."
The auditor's office followed up on ESD 105's reply by consulting with legal counsel and reaffirming its finding.
The back-and-forth debate isn't likely to end anytime soon as neither side backed down in the audit report.
In fact, the auditor's office continued it into at least next year by noting in the finding, "We look forward to reviewing the District's corrective action during our next audit."