Orders State to Comply in 2015 Legislative Session
On September 11, 2014, in McCleary v. State, the Washington
Supreme Court held the State in contempt for failing to obey a court order for a phase-in schedule for fully funding the components of "basic education" by
the 2017-18 school year. The Court ruling was unanimous.
As reported by the Associated Press, Thomas Ahearne, the lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said Thursday's order "wipes out all the excuses that legislators tell themselves as to why they don't have to do anything. I think the attorney general is now going to be telling legislators, 'Guys you are in a box.'"
In an earlier McCleary decision (2012), the Court found the State was not meeting its "paramount duty ... to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its border," as stated in the Washington Constitution. The Court commended the Legislature and agreed with its chosen means of reaching a constitutional level of funding. The Court ordered the State to implement the agreed on changes within the 2018 deadline the legislative body had set.
Since 2012, however, the State has not made "sufficient progress to be on target to fully fund [basic] education ... by the 2017-18 school year," the Court concludes in this decision. And, "the State admitted that it did not comply with the court's ... order."
The Court also points out that "The State, moreover, has known for decades that its funding for public education is constitutionally inadequate," and warned that, "If the contempt is not purged by adjournment of the 2015 legislature, the court will reconvene and impose sanctions or other remedial measures."
The cost to pay for basic education in Washington has been estimated at $4 billion or more in each biennial state budget. Underfunded educational resources that the Legislature has identified as basic education include full-day kindergarten, more instructional hours for high school students, pupil transportation, a new formula for school staffing levels for smaller class sizes, and more state support for school equipment and supplies.