The State Supreme Court handed down an important decision yesterday in the now ten-year-old school funding lawsuit known as McCleary.
In their ruling, the Justices mostly gave their constitutional blessing to the new education funding plan enacted in the 2017 legislative session. That complex plan overhauls how the state funds schools, with the aim of ending years of over-reliance on local levies to pay for basic education.
The ruling – The Court held that the plan meets the state’s constitutional requirement to amply fund schools, but took issue with the legislature for missing a court-imposed deadline by one year. Because the plan as written will not be fully implemented until 2019 (the Court had imposed a deadline of 2018), the Justices retained jurisdiction and will continue to impose a $100,000 per-day fine.
What happens next? – The Court ordered the state to report back in April 2018 – the end of the 2018 legislative session – on its progress speeding up implementation of the plan. Right now various options are being floated around to meet the Court’s deadline.
Here are reactions to the decision from elected leaders:
“I’m encouraged the court recognized the incredible progress we’ve made toward fully funding basic education. As the court noted, the plan the Legislature adopted, but for the timing, will meet constitutional requirements.”
You can read the rest of Gov. Inslee’s statement here.
“The Supreme Court largely affirmed the state’s position that most of the mechanisms for full funding of basic education are in place. I agree with that. As the Court wrote, the state “has made significant progress” toward that goal. . ..
I applaud the Legislature’s work. They have substantially increased basic education funding during the past three biennia. . ..
But I don’t believe the work is done.”
You can read the rest of Superintendent Reykdal’s statement here.
State Sen. John Braun (Centralia) – budget writer in the 2017 session and member of 2017 education funding negotiating team
“Providing students with the support they need and deserve required us to solve a generational problem with a generational solution, which resulted in a historic funding infusion for our schools. The Legislature brought this situation on itself by shirking its responsibility to public schools for decades. Over the past five years we have demonstrated that only by making education our top priority could we pay for schools in a way that works for students, teachers and taxpayers. Judging from today’s ruling, our way also works for the court.”
You can read the rest of Sen. Braun’s statement here.
State Sen. Christine Rolfes (Bainbridge Island) – incoming chief budget writer and member of 2017 education funding negotiating team
“We are very pleased that the Legislature and the Supreme Court are in strong agreement that the state has made significant progress on basic education policy, and that some important work remains. Many lawmakers, myself included, have had conversations with our school districts since the 2017 session concluded. We know some steps need to be taken to ensure they have the flexibility and funding they need to provide students with the best education possible and in the fairest way for taxpayers.”
You can read the rest of Sen. Rolfes’ statement, along with a statement from Sen. Andy Billig (Spokane), here.