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Court Rules State is Still in Contempt Over Educational Funding

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washington state capital buildingIn Article IX (Education) of the Washington State Constitution it states:

It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.

Citing the above, the Supreme Court of Washington today, August 13th, ruled, even with recent increases in educational funding budgeted by the recent legislature, the State remains out of compliance “with its paramount duty.”

Noting that it held off in 2012 from imposing any immediate penalties with the expectation the 2015 legislative session would adequately fund education during its recent session, the Court, with this order, began imposing a stiff penalty effective immediately.

This court must take immediate action to enforce its orders. Effective today, the court imposts a $100,000 per day penalty on the State for each day it remains in violation of this court’s order of January 9, 2014.

The Court offered the State another way out though. If Governor Inslee calls a special session which can accomplish educational funding deemed in compliance, the penalty may be lowered or forgiven entirely.

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In response, Governor Inslee’s office issued the following announcement after a conference call with “legislative leaders” today.

At my request, legislative leaders agreed during a conference call earlier today to meet with me Monday to begin the necessary and difficult work before us. There is much that needs to be done before a special session can be called. I will ask lawmakers to do that work as quickly as humanly possible so that they can step up to our constitutional and moral obligations to our children and lift the court sanctions.

The Court pointed out how the State’s 2015-2017 budget made progress in key areas including transportation, per-student spending for maintenance, supplies and operating costs (MSOC), voluntary all-day kindergarten and class size reduction for K-3 classes.

But the Court also stated “there is far to go.” The Court wasn’t convinced the State would achieve the classroom size goals by the target of 2018. While calling the recent allocation of $350 million in the 2015-2017 budget “considerable,” it pointed out the 2012 estimate to accomplish this was $662.8 million for 2015-2017 and nearly twice that for 2017-2018.

The State has presented no plan as to how it intends to achieve full compliance in this area by 2018, other than the promise that it will take up the matter in the 2017-19 biennial.

The penalty shall be payable daily and is to be held in a segregated account for the benefit of basic education according to the order.

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Paraphrasing from today’s order from the Court:

The court encourages the Governor to call a special session. If during that session should the State come into compliance with the court’s order, the court will vacate any penalties accruing during the session. Otherwise, penalties will continue to accrue until the State achieves compliance.

The Court requires the State to present its plan for achieving compliance by its own deadline of 2018. The State acknowledges it has not submitted a written plan listing benchmarks for assessing its progress, as the court has required.

The State has asked the Court to consider Senate House Bill 2776 as the “plan” and that it (the State) is on pace toward fulfilling that plan. But the Court sees SHB2776 only as what is expected to be achieved by 2018 and not an plan of how those goals will be achieved (including a schedule and benchmarks for measuring compliance).


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