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?
Work remains to be accomplished and NEWS will continue. Why? A key victory in the McCleary case was the Supreme Court’s affirmation that an amply funded education (“considerably more than just adequate”) is a constitutional right of “each and every child” in Washington. Will the State’s new funding formulas enable every school district to provide students with that right? The Supreme Court’s November 2017 order noted: “At this point, the court is willing to allow the State’s program to operate and let experience be the judge of whether it proves adequate” to comply with the ample funding mandate of Article IX, section 1.
The fight isn’t over. And it won’t be over until the experience of Washington school districts confirms that State funding provides all students with a realistic opportunity to learn the skills and knowledge they need to live and compete in a democratic society. We already know that many school districts are struggling with budget cuts as a result of the new funding formulas. Funding for special education and transportation remains inadequate in a large number of districts. And, time will only tell whether new salary funds are actually adequate and truly attract and retain educators.
We urge you to share your experiences with us so we may determine what actions we must take in the future.Our coalition remains strongly committed to taking whatever steps may be necessary to ensure that Washington State lives up to its paramount duty.