Category Archives: What’s New
Despite claims from elected officials that the recently-adopted biennial budget “fully funds K-12 education for the first time in 30 years,” the State has once again fallen short of complying with the court-ordered mandates of McCleary (as further detailed in our FAQs). Here are a few examples:
- “$7.3 billion”: While some headlines note a “$7.3 billion” increase in K-12 funding, the State’s own accounting of McCleary items in the school year starting September 2018 reports a less than $1.5 billion increase (before subtracting the local levy funding taken away in the middle of that 2018-2019 school year). A $1.5 billion increase that school year is not compliance with the $7 billion increase assured by the State’s own court testimony and reports. (See the chart at the bottom of the FAQs: $16,000/pupil – $9,024/pupil = $6,976/pupil. $6,976 x over 1 million pupils = nearly $7 billion.)
- Implementation deadline: The Supreme Court’s December 2012 ruling set 2018 as a “firm deadline for full constitutional compliance” — and then in 2016 gave the State eight extra months to achieve full implementation by adopting the September 1, 2018 deadline date the State had promised. The State itself, on the first page of its analysis of HB 2242, acknowledges it is not fully implemented until the 2019-2020 school year.
- Compensation increase: The State assured the Supreme Court that it would fund the increase determined by the State’s 2261 Technical Compensation Work Group, and the State subsequently confirmed to the Court that the group’s final report determined an increase of at least $2.1 billion a year would be required to attract and retain competent school personnel. The biennium budget funds nothing close to that.
- Property tax redistribution: The Supreme Court’s August 2015 Order expressly reminded the State that local levy reform is not part of its McCleary ruling. The 2017 Legislature nonetheless embarked on levy reform to make the underfunding of its public schools more uniform by taking local levy money away from school districts in the middle of the 2018-2019 school year and distributing increased State property tax revenue more uniformly (the levy swipe/swap). More uniform underfunding does not comply with the McCleary ruling’s ample funding mandate.
Please contact us with any questions you may have regarding the 2017 Legislature’s “compliance” with our constitution’s ample funding mandate and the court orders in the McCleary case.
In a memo sent to every legislator the first week of the session, NEWS Board President Michael Dunn explained what the McCleary decision really entails. He urged lawmakers to “have the courage in this legislative session to obey the Supreme Court’s rulings and finally halt the State’s violation of Washington children’s constitutional right to an amply funded education.” Read the memo.
Kelsey McCleary, daughter of the co-plaintiffs in the school funding lawsuit, penned a letter to her legislators expressing her disappointment in their lack of progress in fully funding K-12 education and articulating her hope for a better future. Read the letter.
The State claims it has made progress in fulfilling the mandates of the McCleary case. The facts from the State’s own reports and court testimony prove legislative action has barely moved the needle – and the gap is still very wide. View a chart that lays it all out.
Despite repeated admonishments and a $100,000-a-day contempt sanction imposed by the Washington Supreme Court, the State has failed to make real and measurable progress toward fully and amply funding K-12 basic education for all children, its actions amounting to nothing more than a never-ending merry-go-round of unfulfilled promises to the Court and to Washington schoolchildren. That was NEWS lead attorney Tom Ahearne’s position in a hearing before the Court today. He urged justices to impose even tougher sanctions. (Watch a video of the full hearing on TVW.)
“The State has succeeded in running the clock out on the McCleary and Venema children,” Ahearne said, referring to the two families who, along with the NEWS coalition, filed the landmark school funding lawsuit in 2007. Three of the four kids are now in college; the lone remaining K-12 student, high school senior Carter McCleary, was a second grader when the suit was filed.
“It’s time to enforce firm sanctions … to give the State clear and unequivocal choices to comply in the 2017 legislative session … with this Court’s orders and rulings,” Ahearne concluded.
Among the sanctions NEWS has suggested to the Court: (1) invalidate all statutes in the unconstitutionally funded school system, effectively closing schools on the first day of classes in the new 2017-18 school year, or (2) void all corporate and other tax exemptions – except the one on food approved by voters – so that those dollars may be used to fully fund public schools. The 2017 Legislature could avoid either sanction ever taking effect, however, by simply complying with the court orders in this case mandating that the State amply fund its K-12 schools as our State constitution requires.
Ahearne said the State’s “plan” for complying with its constitutional duty as mandated in McCleary falls far short, rejecting claims by the State’s attorney, Alan Copsey, who told the Court: “The Legislature is making progress. It just hasn’t finished.”
Justices pressed Copsey with questions about his vow that the 2017 legislative session would finally result in the process and the resources to fund compensation improvements for teachers, which he claimed was the only outstanding compliance issue in McCleary.
“What happens if it doesn’t take place in the 2017 Legislature? I remember a couple years ago we got briefs and … promises they would act and there wasn’t any action and they didn’t even file a plan,” asked Justice Susan Owens.
“There is a specific legislative commitment to take action in this Legislature,” Copsey responded. “It is true that the 2017 Legislature could end up doing nothing. There’s no way for us to predict with accuracy or to control what the Legislature does. But this is something that is qualitatively different from anything that’s happened before … which is an active commitment from the Legislature.”
Ahearne began his remarks with a story about his younger siblings who liked to ride the merry-go-round. He didn’t like the carnival ride, he said, because it didn’t go anywhere. It just went around and around in circles.
“That’s what’s been happening with this case for the last several years,” he told the Court. “We’ve been on this merry-go-round before.”
He reiterated multiple Court rulings that said the State could not simply fund its own funding formulas and declare McCleary mandates had been met; it must fund the actual costs of providing students with a realistic chance to meet the State educational standards — including all-day kindergarten, K-3 class size reductions, compensation to attract and retain educators, transportation and more.
The Court is expected to issue a ruling related to the contempt citation before the end of the year.