Category Archives: What’s New
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.
The NEWS Board of Directors met this month to review the status of the McCleary case in light of the actions taken by the 2017 Legislature and the resulting Order issued by the Washington State Supreme Court on Nov. 15. (Read a summary of the Order.)
Mindful that the Court rejected the State’s claim that (1) the 2017 Legislature had satisfied the Court orders in the McCleary case; (2) the State’s contempt of court and consequent sanctions therefore continue, and; (3) the Court retained jurisdiction to ensure that the 2018 Legislature provides school districts with the additional $1 billion as mandated in the Court’s most recent order; the NEWS Board recognizes three important points:
- Although considerable progress has been made since the 2007 filing of this suit, the McCleary case is still not over.
- Continued advocacy will be required to keep pressure on the 2018 Legislature to appropriate the additional $1 billion of salary funding that the State told the Court is required to fully fund the State’s new salary model for the 2018-19 school year – and to do so by the March 8, 2018, end-of-regular-session deadline ordered by the Court.
- If the State’s new funding formulas do not in fact amply fund all 10 components of the State’s basic education program in the 2018-19 school year (as the State had assured the Supreme Court those funding formulas would), advocating that the courts take further enforcement action will be necessary.
The NEWS Board will meet in January before the next legislative session opens to address the continued advocacy needed to assure the State’s full compliance with the Satte’s paramount, ample funding duty established by the Court’s constitutional rulings in the McCleary case. The 1 million+ students in Washington’s public schools deserve nothing less. And members of the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools remain enthusiastically committed to the State of Washington finally complying with the Constitution of Washington.