State must explain education funding decisions

SEATTLE — The Washington Supreme Court on Thursday ordered lawmakers to explain why they haven’t followed its orders to fix the way Washington pays for public education.

The court has ordered the state to appear before it Sept. 3 and show the court how it has followed its orders in the 2012 McCleary decision or face contempt.

The attorney for the coalition that sued the state over education funding was happy to see the court order issued on Thursday.

“I’m very excited because It shows that they are taking the state’s violations seriously,” Thomas Ahearne said.

The McCleary decision said lawmakers are not meeting their constitutional responsibility to fully pay for basic education and they are relying too much on local tax-levy dollars to balance the education budget.

They were given until the 2017-18 school year to fix the problem.

The Legislature has been making yearly progress reports on its efforts to fulfill the McCleary decision and every year the court has said in response that lawmakers aren’t doing enough.

The most recent report, filed at the end of April, acknowledged that the Legislature didn’t make a lot of progress in 2014, but said they had ideas for fixing that situation during the 2015 legislative session.

A total of $982 million will be added to state education spending over the next two years, with most of the money going to classroom supplies, student transportation and the Learning Assistance Program for struggling students. The Legislature also made down-payments toward all-day kindergarten and smaller classes in the early grades.

As much as $2.5 billion, by legislative estimates, will need to be added to the education budget to meet the obligations lawmakers have already identified for improving basic education and paying for it.

“I think the court is being very, very patient here, giving the state multiple opportunities to comply with the court orders, which frankly is more than most defendants get,” Ahearne said.

The state’s response strategy will become clear July 11, when its opening brief to the court is due.

Phone calls to the attorney general and leading lawmakers asking for comment were not immediately returned Thursday afternoon.

More in Local News

Local police join thousands honoring slain Canadian officer

Abbotsford Const. John Davidson was killed Nov. 6 in a shootout with a suspected car thief.

Hard work is paying off for Mariner High senior

Mey Ly has excelled in school since moving here from Cambodia; she also serves as an intrepreter.

One arrested in Marysville in connection with robbery

The suspect was caught in the 5800 block of 60th Drive NE.

Darrington School Board race might come down to a coin flip

With a one-vote difference, a single ballot in Skagit County remains to be counted.

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s best images by staff photographers and… Continue reading

No easy exit from Smokey Point shopping complex

There’s just no easy exit on this one. A reader called in… Continue reading

Lynnwood, Marysville, Sultan consider ban on safe injection sites

If approved, they would join Lake Stevens and Snohomish County, which have temporary bans.

City Council OKs initial funding for Smith Avenue parking lot

The site of the former Smith Street Mill is being developed in anticipation of light rail.

Single fingerprint on robbery note leads to arrest

The holdup occurred at a U.S. Bank branch in Lynnwood in June.

Most Read