State Supreme Court to evaluate state’s education funding plan

OLYMPIA — The paperwork is in and now the wait begins to see how the Washington Supreme Court evaluates the state’s latest plan for funding public schools.

Friday brought a final batch of filings from lawyers representing the state and plaintiffs in the long-running legal battle known as the McCleary case.

“Under the current schedule this is the final salvo from all sides,” said Thomas Ahearne, attorney for the parents and educators who filed the original suit.

Attorneys in this 10-year-old quarrel expect a hearing in late October. They will again argue whether actions taken by lawmakers this year will ensure the state is covering the full cost of a basic education for 1.2 million public school students by a September 2018 deadline.

The lawsuit filed in 2007 led to the 2012 McCleary ruling that state funding for education is not adequate, equitable or ample. Justices also found the school funding system unconstitutional because it caused school districts to use local property taxes to pay for basic education.

The court set a Sept. 1, 2018, deadline for the state to fix the problems and required the Legislature to submit annual progress reports. Justices also wanted the state to give them a plan detailing the steps to be taken to assure compliance.

When the state failed to deliver a plan in 2014, the court found the state in contempt. And when no plan had been turned in by August 2015, the court imposed a $100,000-a-day sanction that continues to pile up.

Fast forward to July. That’s when a bipartisan group of lawmakers approved this year’s progress report.

The 85-page document points out state funding for public schools has climbed from $13.4 billion in the 2011-13 biennium to $22 billion in the current two-year budget and will reach $26.6 billion in the 2019-21 budget, when all the McCleary funding measures are in place.

Most of the report focuses on the content of House Bill 2242, which lawmakers say is the road map to compliance. It changes how the state pays salaries of teachers and staff and imposes new restrictions on how districts can use local property tax levies. It also generates additional state dollars for schools through an increase in the property tax in 2018.

In its legal filing Friday, state attorneys contend what lawmakers did will remedy the constitutional deficiencies in the funding system cited by the court.

And they argued those actions will phase in full state funding for basic education “in a choreographed sequence that is fully complete by the 2019-20 school year. This legislation brings the state into compliance.”

“No further remedy is necessary,” wrote senior assistant attorney general Dave Stolier. “The court need not retain jurisdiction any longer. It is time for this case to end.”

But Ahearne said actions of lawmakers will not bring the state into compliance and said tougher sanctions should be imposed.

And, since the deadline to comply isn’t until next year, there is no reason for the court to decide this fall to end the case.

“This court promised the over 1 million kids in our state’s public schools that it would be vigilant in enforcing the positive, constitutional right each one of them has to an amply funded basic education,” Ahearne wrote in his brief filed Friday. “Plaintiffs respectfully ask this court to keep its promise.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Kim Skarda points at her home on a map on Thursday, June 20, 2024 in Concrete, Washington. A community called Sauk River Estates has a very steep slope above it. There is a DNR-approved timber sale that boarders the estate properties, yet they were not consulted about the sale before approval. The community has already appealed the sale and has hired their own geologist to conduct a slope stability report at the site. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Beneath steep slope, Concrete neighbors fear landslides from logging above

Nielsen Brothers plans to cut 54 acres of timber directly behind the community of 83 homes. Locals said they were never consulted.

Law enforcement respond to a person hit by a train near the Port of Everett Mount Baker Terminal on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Mukilteo, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
2 killed in waterfront train crashes were near Mukilteo ‘quiet zone’

In June, two people were hit by trains on separate days near Mukilteo Boulevard. “These situations are incredibly tragic,” Everett’s mayor said.

Rob Plotnikoff takes a measurement as a part of the county's State of Our Waters survey at Tambark Creek in Bothell, Washington on Monday, July 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Snohomish County stream team bushwhacks a path to healthier waterways

This summer, the crew of three will survey 40 sites for the State of Our Waters program. It’s science in locals’ backyards.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Mountlake Terrace in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
4th suspect arrested after Mountlake Terrace home robbery

Police arrested Taievion Rogers, 19, on Tuesday. Prosecutors charged his three alleged accomplices in April.

A 10 acre parcel off of Highway 99, between 240th and 242nd Street Southwest that the city of Edmonds is currently in the process of acquiring on Monday, July 10, 2023 in Edmonds, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Edmonds ditches $37M Landmark public park project off Highway 99

The previous mayor envisioned parks and more in south Edmonds, in a historically neglected area. The new administration is battling budget woes.

Edmonds school official sworn in as Mount Vernon supe

Victor Vergara took his oath of office last week. He was assistant superintendent of equity and student success in Edmonds.

Photos by Olivia Vanni / The Herald
Gabby Bullock sits on her bed in a room she shares with another housemate on June 14 in Everett.
‘We don’t have openings’: SnoCo recovery houses struggle with demand

Advocates say the homes are critical for addiction recovery. But home prices make starting a sober living house difficult.

Melinda Grenier serves patrons at her coffee truck called Hay Girl Coffee during the third annual Arlington Pride event in Arlington, Washington on Sunday, June 2, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Food safety team defends its work: it’s a ‘high pressure, thankless’ job

Management tried to set the record straight about long permit delays in Snohomish County.

Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. (Olivia Vanni/The Herald)
Global tech outage leaves a mark on Snohomish County

The CrowdStrike software update hit some systems at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett and briefly disrupted 911 operations.

Performers joust during the Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire at Sky Meadows Park in Snohomish, Washington, on Sunday, Aug. 06, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Royalty and revelry: The spirit of the Renaissance comes to Monroe

The annual Renaissance fair will open its doors every weekend from July 20 to Aug. 18

Trees and foliage grow at the Rockport State Park on Wednesday, April 3, 2024 in Rockport, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
When you get lost in WA, what’s the cost to get rescued? Surprisingly little

Washington’s volunteer search and rescue teams save lives without costly bills.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.