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.