NEWS urges contempt of court against Legislature

In response to a court-mandated legislative “progress” report from the State to the Washington Supreme Court, the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools today asked the high court to hold the Legislature in contempt.

“The State Supreme Court issues orders, not suggestions. And lawmakers have blatantly disobeyed those orders,” said NEWS lead attorney Tom Ahearne. “The Legislature’s own report shows they did not take ‘immediate, concrete action’ to make ‘real and measurable progress’ toward fully funding K-12 schools as the Court had ordered. That’s why we are asking the Court to hold the Legislature in contempt, to prohibit the State from adding any further unfunded or underfunded mandates on its public schools, and to impose even more serious sanctions if the Legislature does not reconvene to obey the Court’s orders by December 31 of this year.”

In January 2014, the Court ordered the State to submit a report by April 30 showing that the Legislature’s 2014 session had:

  • Taken “immediate, concrete action” to make “real and measurable progress, not simply promises” towards fully funding the State’s K-12 schools by the 2017/2018 school year, and
  • Developed a complete full funding plan for each school year between now and the 2017/2018 school year.

The State admitted in its report that the Legislature had failed to comply with that order. NEWS, which has been authorized by the State Supreme Court to monitor and respond to the State’s reports, today asked the Court to take firm, concrete action to compel the State’s compliance with the Court’s orders and with Washington children’s constitutional right to an amply funded education.

NEWS listed in its response many types of enforcement orders issued by courts in cases in other states, and requested that, at the very least, the Supreme Court should:

  • Hold the Legislature in contempt of court
  • Prohibit the State from adding more unfunded or underfunded mandates on K-12 public schools, and
  • Rule that if the State does not fully comply with the Court’s January 2014 order by December 31, 2014, then the Court will issue strong judicial enforcement orders (that legislators will not be happy with) in January 2015.

Read NEWS’s filing with the Supreme Court, May 21, 2014.

Read the State’s filing with the Supreme Court, April 30, 2014.