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Washington State Governor Says More Time Needed to Come Up With Education Funding Plan
State Racking Up $100,000 Per Day Fine Until Court Order to Fund Basic Education is Met

© Krantz News Service, August 18, 2015


Washington State Governor Jay Inslee will not immediately call lawmakers into a special session, despite an order by the Washington State Supreme Court fining the State $100,000 per day until the Legislature adopts a "complete plan" for complying with state constitutional mandates to fund fully basic education.

Inslee met with legislative leaders Monday and said afterwards that lawmakers had agreed to continue meeting to seek consensus on a plan that would satisfy the Supreme Court.

The Washington State Supreme Court entered uncharted judicial territory last week by ordering the state's lawmaking body to appropriate more money to fund K-12 education.

To achieve this goal, the court issued an order assessing a penalty of "$100,000 per day until the legislature adopts a complete plan for complying with Article IX, section I by the 2018 school year."

Article IX, Section 1 of The Washington State Constitution makes it 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."

Washington State legislators and the Governor met Monday to consider entering into a record fourth special legislative session to hammer out a deal that will comply with the court's order.

Inslee said his office and legislators would "work vigorously to tee up a solution" that the Legislature could then approve, perhaps in a brief special session before the end of the year.

The Supreme Court outlined the penalty for failure to comply with its order as follows:

"The penalty shall be payable daily to be held in a segregated account for the benefit of basic education. Recognizing that legislative action complying with the Court's order can only occur in session, but further recognizing that the court has no authority to convene a special session, the Court encourages the governor to aid in resolving this matter by calling a special session. Should the legislature hold a special session and during that session fully comply 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."

Such a move is being viewed by legal scholars as unprecedented.

Scott R. Bauries, an associate law professor at the University of Kentucky who studies state constitutions and education told The New York Times "I'm not aware, ever, of a state supreme court doing this...I can't see any other way of describing it -- the court is appropriating funds for the education system."

Since the Court's order places taxpayer money into a fund designated for education funding, Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah, said the court's action likely violates the state constitution:

The court "actually cited a precedent in the order, but you won't find it in the Constitution. In fact, Art. VIII, sec. 4 says tax revenues may not leave the treasury without an appropriation in law by the Legislature."

In a statement for PubliCola, Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, said the court remains within the bounds of its authority. "Fines are the most common way for courts to address contempt," he said, "and the court isn't telling the Legislature exactly what measures to take to fund education."

Thursday's court order cites the need to fully fund all-day kindergarten, teacher salaries and reduced class sizes while not relying on local levies to make up the difference.

"In the current budget," the order states, "the legislature approved modest salary increases (across state government) and fully funded Initiative 732 cost of living increases (which had long been suspended), and it provided some benefit increases; but the State has offered no plan for achieving a sustained, fully state-funded system that will attract and retain the educators necessary to actually deliver a quality education."

But the order also adds in a footnote, "We offer no opinion on whether full state funding of basic education salaries must be accompanied by levy reform, but how the State achieves full state funding is up to the legislature."

Responses to the order have been mixed:

Gael Tarleton, D-36th Legislative District, tweeted:

"A crisis (in state education funding) is terrible thing to waste. Time to talk turkey: capital gains tax. Now."

State Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, tweeted "The Washington Supreme Court has gone rogue. It is time for articles of impeachment."

For more about the McClearly decision see a timeline of McCleary-related events here.

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