Justice Stephens, who's running against disbarred lawyer John "Zamboni" Scannell this fall, wrote the McCleary decision that found the State of Washington in contempt of court for failing to adequately fund its citizens' constitutional right to a basic education. So we asked Stephens: What comes after contempt?They agree but points out that the back and forth seems to less-than-productive.
“At this point, anything is on the table," she told us. "We have held them in contempt. The court's role is to see the mandate of that case, and the mandate of the constitution, carried out. I think it’s unhelpful when branches of government just get into flexing muscle on either side. I think the court is helping foster a dialogue about how to get it done."
The SECB doesn't hear any of that kind of urgency when it comes to the $2 billion the state probably needs for education (whose proper funding is, ahem, the state's paramount duty). In fact, we've heard some legislators saying that because the supreme court had the nerve to tell their branch of government what to do, they should ignore the court's order as a way of asserting their independent power.She says no, they are not going to jail anyone but:
“I’ve heard a lot of that, too, and I find that juvenile," Justice Stephens told us. "It’s the paramount duty of the state, and they are in continuing violation of the constitution." She noted that as long as this drags on, "No single child has the opportunity to regain the lost constitutionally-required obligation." And, in the meantime, inaction "avoids the essential question, which is how we’re gonna get this done and meet the paramount duty.”
Instead, she said, the most common thing other states have done is "enjoined other spending until there’s adequate spending."What did Beyonce say in a song once? Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh.
In other words, they shut down the public school system. Shut. It. Down. Because it was a disgrace. And think about it: sending every public school student in a state home at once gets the attention of a lot of people real fast, including lawmakers and the governor.
“I think that’s pretty extreme, too," Justice Stephens said.
It would be a horrible disruption to shut down schools but frankly, yes I think it would surely get the Legislature's attention. But another thought - from a comment at the Slog is to shut down the Legislature - take their salaries and employees away for a couple of days. That, too, is a thought.