Category Archives: What’s New

NEWS urges lawmakers to obey the law and fully fund K-12 education

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.


‘There’s still time for the 1 million kids who’ll be in our public schools next year’

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.

What does ‘progress’ really look like?

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.

NEWS to Washington Supreme Court: State’s promises go nowhere; it’s time for tougher sanctions

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.)


From front: Stephanie McCleary and her son Carter; Halie and Robbie with their mother Patty Venema.

“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.


Supreme Court orders State and NEWS to appear on Sept. 7

The Washington State Supreme Court has ordered the parties in the McCleary lawsuit to appear before justices in a hearing in Olympia on Sept. 7, 2016. In a unanimous order issued on July 14, the Court said, “Before making a decision on whether the State is in compliance, we will hear from the parties on precisely what the legislature has accomplished, what remains to be accomplished, and what significance we should attach to E2SSB 6195”, which the State has contended “constitutes a sufficient plan and shows that the legislature is on pace toward fulfilling its constitutional duty”.

“The 2017 legislative session presents the last opportunity for complying with the State’s paramount duty under article IX, section 1 by 2018,” the Court’s order continued. “What remains to be done to achieve compliance is undeniably huge, but it is not undefinable. At this juncture, seven years since enactment of ESHB 2261 and six years since enactment of SHB2776, the State can certainly set out for the court and the people of Washington the detailed steps it must take to accomplish its goals by the end of the next legislative session.”

The Court set forth the issues it expects the parties to address at the Sept. 7 hearing:

(a) whether the State views the 2018 deadline as referring to the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, to the end of the 2017-2018 fiscal year, to the end of 2018, or to some other date;

(b) whether E2SSB 6195, when read together with ESHB 2261 and SHB 2776, satisfies this court’s January 9, 2014, order for a plan and, if not, what opportunities, if any, remain for the legislature to provide the plan required by that January 9, 2014, order;

(c) the estimated current cost of full state funding of the program of basic education identified by ESHB 2261 (RCW 28A.150.220) and the implementation program established by SHB 2776, including, but not limited to, the costs of materials, supplies, and operating costs; transportation; and reduced class sizes for kindergarten through third grade and all-day kindergarten, with the costs of reduced class sizes and all-day kindergarten to include the estimated capital costs necessary to fully implement those components and the necessary level of staffing;

(d) the estimated cost of full state funding of competitive market-rate basic education staff salaries, including the costs of recruiting and retaining competent staff and professional development of instructional staff;

(e) the components of basic education, if any, the State has fully funded in light of the costs specified above;

(f) the components of basic education, including basic education staff salaries, the State has not yet fully funded in light of the costs specified above, the cost of achieving full state funding of the components that have not been fully funded by the deadline, and how the State intends to meet its constitutional obligation to implement its plan of basic education through dependable and regular revenue sources by that deadline;

(g) whether this court should dismiss the contempt order or continue sanctions; and

(h) any additional information that will demonstrate to the court how the State will fully comply with article IX, section 1 by 2018.