Category Archives: What’s New

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.


Mike Dunn of ESD 101 becomes NEWS President

Dear Colleagues:

After 32 years in public education and the last 12 years as superintendent in the Edmonds School District, I retired today. Because I believe that an active superintendent must lead the Board of Trustees of NEWS – and the Board agreed – Mike Dunn, Superintendent of ESD 101 in the Spokane area, has been elected unanimously by the Board to be our new NEWS President, pending formal approval by the general membership in October. I will remain on the Board as past president.

I have been involved in the McCleary case since its inception in 2007, joined the Board in 2011 and became Board President in 2012. It has been an honor to represent this cause. As Mike moves forward in this role, he will be able to represent the day-to-day realities of K-12 underfunding in interactions with lawmakers and NEWS members. He will also be well positioned to lead the Board in providing direction and advice to the legal team as we communicate with the Washington State Supreme Court in this ongoing legal matter. Mike is highly regarded as an effective educational leader and will do an outstanding job carrying this forward.

Please join us in welcoming Mike as our NEWS President and please encourage your district or organization to stay the course in supporting funding for NEWS so we can continue to hold the State accountable for school funding. We won the McCleary case, but an ultimate victory is not yet ours. Ample K-12 funding is within our reach, but we need you to see this through to completion.

Thank you for your support of this work.


Nick J. Brossoit, Ed.D.

NEWS to Supreme Court: ‘The State is still not complying with this Court’s rulings’

NEWS filed its Supreme Court brief this week responding to the State’s contention that the legislature’s “progress” in the 2016 session was sufficient to meet the Court’s orders in the McCleary case. “Despite the 2014 Contempt Order and 2015 Sanctions Order in this case, the State is still not complying with this Court’s rulings,” NEWS wrote.

As Court-ordered fines against the State continue to mount — more than $29 million when NEWS filed its brief, with $100,000 plus interest being added every day — NEWS urged the Court to “finally put an end to State government’s longstanding pattern of violation and delay by firmly enforcing the paramount constitutional right of every child in our State to an amply funded K-12 education.” (more…)

Thank you for taking a stand for students!

Many thanks to school districts and organizations all over Washington for taking a strong stand for their students and every K-12 student in our state! These districts have adopted a resolution urging the Legislature to take action now to comply with the State Supreme Court and fully fund an ample education for all students.

Bainbridge Island
Educational Service District 105
Franklin Pierce
Kettle Falls
Lake Washington
Medical Lake
Mercer Island
Moses Lake
North Kitsap
North Mason
Northeast Educational Service District 101
Northwest Educational Service District 189
Oak Harbor
St. John
Snoqualmie Valley
Washington State PTA
West Valley-Spokane
White Pass