When the McCleary education funding lawsuit was first filed in December 2007, George W. Bush was president and Mike Holmgren was head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.
Fast forward to today and we can see the tangible results of the work the state legislature has done investing in our schools:
- State funding for K-12 has more than doubled since 2012, increasing from $6.5 billion in 2011 to $13.7 billion planned for 2021.
- Increased funding from the state has helped reverse over-reliance on local levies to pay for education.
- Spending on K-12 now accounts for over 50 percent of the state budget, which hasn’t happened in Washington since 1983.
Because of the legislature’s work, late last week the State Supreme Court dismissed the McCleary case in a unanimous opinion, finding that the state had fulfilled its obligation to fund schools. The Washington Education Association (WEA – the state teachers’ union) called the decision a “victory” for students and public education. Elected officials, including Gov. Jay Inslee, were mostly positive about the result.
So McCleary is finally over. What does that mean moving forward?
For teachers, the WEA has made it clear that since the state has invested billions more in education, “now’s the time to negotiate big pay raises.” And that’s already starting to play out. Just this week the districts of Bridgeport, Mossyback, Ocean Beach and Cascade all announced new contracts with teacher pay increases from 15 to 20 percent. The WEA stated it expects “other good bargains will be announced soon.”
Of course, not all additional money from the state is earmarked for teacher pay.
For students and families, the end of McCleary presents a historic opportunity to engage with your local school district about programs, services and supports that matter to you. Are you concerned about special education, reading or math instruction, improving access to advanced or honors classes, more options for career and technical training, or arts education? Something else? Given the historic investments in education, now is the time to engage with your school district and let them know. And encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same.