Category Archives: What’s New
When the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools was launched in 2005, few of us envisioned the historic influence the eventual McCleary case would have — not only on ultimately generating billions of dollars in state funding for K-12 public schools, but also on having the Washington State Supreme Court define what the “paramount duty” clause in our state constitution really means:
- “Paramount duty” means the state must amply fund our public schools first before anything else
- “Ample” means considerably more than just adequate, not merely what is left over
- “All” means all Washington students, not just those living in wealthy school districts or those who are easy to teach, and
- “Education” means the knowledge and skills students will need to succeed in today’s world, which the state established in Washington academic standards such as the Essential Academic Learning Requirements
To help ensure that these principles are upheld, the NEWS Board of Trustees has followed the advice of the NEWS members attending our Oct. 15 membership meeting and has agreed to keep our coalition intact indefinitely. The details remain to be decided regarding how we will continue to advance our mission, including how we will fund our work. However, the coalition we’ve built over the past 13 years will continue to serve as an organization singularly committed to bringing together all K-12 interests in a shared vision of what’s best for Washington schoolchildren.
As you may recall, the State Supreme Court noted that “experience will be the judge” of whether the State’s new K-12 funding is truly “ample”. NEWS intends to gather data and information on your actual “experience” and will use that information to monitor progress or regression in equitable, ample school funding and to plan whatever next steps might be necessary to assure that the State adheres to its constitutional paramount duty. Stay tuned in the coming months for more details on how we’ll move forward together.
Today, the Washington State Supreme Court issued a ruling that brings an end to the McCleary lawsuit’s successful challenge to the constitutionality of the State funding levels at issue in our lawsuit’s 2009 trial. Today’s ruling does not, however, resolve the constitutionality of the State’s new basic education program funding levels.
The order relinquishes Supreme Court jurisdiction because “the State has complied with the court’s orders to fully implement its statutory program of basic education by September 1, 2018.” That’s not a surprise, for the 2018 Legislature did fund the State’s new basic education funding formulas by the September 1, 2018, deadline. But since there was no evidence in the McCleary trial about whether or not those new formulas provide ample funding for our K-12 public schools, the Court’s order conspicuously did not grant the State’s request for the Court to rule that the State’s new funding levels satisfy the ample funding mandate of Article IX, section 1.
Thanks to the unwavering support of the 440 NEWS members, the McCleary lawsuit has resulted in billions of dollars in new funding for Washington’s K-12 public schools. We should all be proud of this landmark achievement. In short, we won! But we’re not done yet. Now, what comes next?
The Network for Excellence in Washington Schools today urged the Washington State Supreme Court to reject the State’s claim that the State’s new funding formulas amply fund basic education for all Washington children as required by our state constitution.
While acknowledging that the Supreme Court can now end the State’s appeal of the final judgment entered after the 2009 McCleary trial, NEWS maintained in a brief filed today that actual evidence does not yet exists to conclusively prove the State’s allegation that its new formulas amply fund all of our K-12 schools.
“The question of whether the State’s new funding levels do in fact comply with the ample funding for all children mandate of Article IX, section 1 (of the constitution) is a question to be resolved another day in another case — not a question to be gagged and buried here with a speculative factual finding of compliance today,” the NEWS brief stated.
NEWS pointed out that the Court itself maintained that it is, at this point, “willing to allow the State’s program to operate and let experience be the judge of whether it proves adequate.”
“Plaintiffs want to be clear: they do not believe the State’s new funding formulas provide ample State funding,” the brief noted, adding the obvious point that there was not any evidence in the 2009 trial concerning school districts’ actual experience with the State’s new funding formulas adopted after that trial.
NEWS also pointed out that the State failed to fully pay the $100,000-a-day fine that the Court imposed on the State after a contempt ruling in the McCleary case. With interest, the State’s appropriation for those accrued fines fell more than $18 million short.
“This $18 million shortfall might seem akin to a ‘rounding error’ to government officials in charge of an over $40 billion biennium State budget. But $18 million is not trivial” to a struggling public school, the NEWS brief noted. However, NEWS said that declaring the $18 million sanctions amount still left unfunded does not require a continuation of the McCleary Supreme Court proceeding.
Lead attorney Tom Ahearne brought school administrators, school board members and district business professionals up to date on the McCleary case at the groups’ annual legislative conference this month. View the slides from his presentation.
Two courageous families — the McClearys and the Venemas — along with six school districts and a few organizations like the State PTA, League of Women Voters and Washington Education Association came together to launch the McCleary coalition in 2005. Thirteen years and many court victories later, what comes next? Read about NEWS’s next steps in this historic fight for the rights of Washington students.