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Supreme Court rules state must fully fund K-12 education

Washington State Supreme Court ruled the state has by "consistently providing school districts with a level of resources that falls short of the actual costs of the basic education program" failed to meet its duty under the state Constitution. The court noted the reforms recently passed by the legislature will be fully implemented by 2018. The court will retain jurisdiction in the case.

The case was filed by three couples on behalf of their children. San Juan Island School District was part of a coalition of school districts, educational and community groups involved in the case.  Representative Jeff Morris (Anacortes - D) when asked at a forum in at the Friday Harbor Middle School a couple of years ago, what can be done about the need for more funding for education, replied, "Sue us." He believed, along with other legislators  that was the only way the needed attention was going to be paid to the issue.

The case came before the court as an appeal from the King County Superior Court. In the Washington Supreme Court ruling seven justices signed in the majority, two dissented in part, and one didn't participte.

The conclusion stated in part:

Article IX, section 1 of the Washington State Constitution makes it the paramount duty of the State to amply provide for the education of all children within its borders. This duty requires the State to provide an opportunity for every child to gain the knowledge and skills outlined in Seattle School District, ESHB 1209, and the EALRs.

The legislature must develop a basic education program geared toward delivering the constitutionally required education, and it must fully fund that program through regular and dependable tax sources.

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. The legislature recently enacted sweeping reforms to remedy the deficiencies in the funding system, and it is currently making progress toward phasing in those reforms.

We defer to the legislature's chosen means of discharging its article IX, section 1 duty, but the judiciary will retain jurisdiction over the case to help ensure progress in the State's brought, Judge Doran's trial court order served for many years as the guidepost for measuring education reforms.

McCleary, et ux., et al. v. State of Washington, 84362-7 plan to fully implement education reforms by 2018. We direct the parties to provide further briefing to this court addressing the preferred method for retaining jurisdiction. The clerk's office will set an appropriate briefing schedule.

OPINION in PDF format


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