The Washington State Supreme Court ruled Jan. 5 that basic public education is not adequately funded by the state as outlined in the state consitution.
According to the Associated Press, the court said that lawmakers have until 2018 to implement its education reforms. Read the AP story in The Olympian for more details on the ruling.
The Court’s opinion is available on the State Supreme Court website.
The lawsuit was filed by the Network for Excellence in Washington Public Education, which counts the Lake Washington and Northshore school districts and their respective education associations as members.
Schools are funded through a combination of state money largely determined by the number of students in a district, local tax levies that must be approved by voters and federal funding that usually is earmarked for particular programs. The balance depends on the individual school districts.
Several people have released statements on the ruling:
Mary Lindquist, President, Washington Education Association
“While we are still reviewing all the details, there is no doubt today’s decision by the State Supreme Court in the matter of McCleary v. State is a huge victory for Washington children and public education. With this decision, the Supreme Court has clearly agreed with the lower court’s decision that, for many years, the state has failed to fulfill its paramount constitutional duty: amply funding public education.
“Today, the Supreme Court reaffirmed what WEA and its partners in the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools (NEWS) have argued for so long: public education in Washington is woefully underfunded. And this means students and schools can no longer bear the impact of further cuts to public education funding.
“The decision by the Court, coming just days before the start of the 2012 legislative session, clearly puts the responsibility for correcting the underfunding where it belongs: the state legislature. The legislature can no longer punt on full funding for public education. The legislature needs to act immediately to remedy this injustice against our children and students.”
According to State Superintendent Randy Dorn:
Today’s unanimous ruling by the State Supreme Court is a clear victory for the students of Washington state.
The ruling confirms what I have been saying for many years: education funding has not been adequate, and further cuts are out of the question. The Court could not have been clearer about this when it wrote, “The State has failed to meet its duty under article IX, section 1 by consistently providing school districts with a level of resources that falls short of the actual costs of the basic education program.”
In 2009 I fought to pass legislation that created the Quality Education Council. The Council's charge is to make recommendations for the implementation of new definitions and funding formulas for basic education. The Court correctly says that full implementation of the QEC process is the solution to this problem. As a leader of the QEC, I will make that happen by 2018 at the latest.
I am also glad that the Court will continue to monitor the case and I stand ready to help the Legislature identify the elements of basic education that remain underfunded or inappropriately funded.
Finally, I want to thank the Court for issuing its ruling before the start of the 2012 Legislature. The Court understood that the issue of education funding is too important to Washington state to have waited until the end of another session.