Earlier this year, the State Supreme Court ordered the Washington legislature to provide a plan by April 30, 2014 for fixing the state’s unconstitutional education funding system. The McCleary v. Washington decision found that the state was violating its constitutional obligation to amply fund basic education and gave lawmakers a 2018 deadline to fix this violation.
In a recent legal analysis of the case, Judge Phil Talmadge, former State Supreme Court Justice (1995–2001), wrote that the Court’s decision to “retain jurisdiction to monitor legislative compliance” represents “uncharted waters” for the state. Judge Talmadge lays out a number of potential outcomes in his analysis of this legislative-judicial battle over school funding, writing: “The issue presented here is not one of whether the Court has the power… to order compliance with its McCleary opinion. It does. The more basic and nuanced question is whether it is wise to exercise that power.” (more…)
Last week, in nearly 200 local elections across the state, Washington voters overwhelming supported their local school levies, approving $5.4 billion dollars in funding for schools.
While a few elections are still too close to call and the results will not be certified until February 25, of the 194 levies that passed, 150 were for maintenance and operations and raised nearly $4.9 billion total for districts across the state. Forty-three capital levies and one transportation levy also passed.
Fifty-four of the levies passed thanks to simple majority, a 2007 voter-approved constitutional amendment supported by the League of Education Voters. Between 2008 and 2013, more than $4.7 billion was raised for schools through local levies.
In many districts, local levies make up 25 percent or more of the total operating costs of their schools. These local dollars often pay for necessary school costs like staff salaries, textbooks, or a sixth period in school—a far cry from the “extras” they were originally intended to provide.
In January 2012, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled in McCleary v. Washington that the state was not meeting its constitutionally mandated duty to fully fund basic education. The court ordered the legislature to overhaul how education is funded in the state by 2018. Last year, the legislature added nearly $1 billion to support K–12 basic education funding and gap closing strategies and programs.
LEV welcomes Gov. Jay Inslee and congratulates him on his inauguration today. We, too, are “proud to live in a state where education is the paramount duty,” and look forward to working with Gov. Inslee on fulfilling that duty this legislative session and in the coming years of his term as governor.
We applaud his commitment to innovation in Washington State. In education, Inslee’s call to bring “real reforms using proven models” is heartening. Particularly, we appreciate his prioritization of meeting our constitutional requirement to amply, equitably, and sustainably fund education, per the McCleary decision. As we work to meet this requirement, we agree with Gov. Inslee that we should not allow the funding debate to mask issues in our education system that demand innovation and reform.
We appreciate Gov. Inslee’s calls for a focus on STEM education, investments in quality early learning, aligning the education system from early learning through college, improving and expanding teacher and principal evaluations, and aligning what is taught in schools to help our students get the jobs of the 21st century.
We look forward to working with Gov. Inslee on these issues as we push to support a world-class education system for all of our state’s students.