Monday, February 22, 2016

State Superintendent Considering Lawsuit Over McCleary

Crosscut is reporting that Washington State superintendent Randy Dorn is thinking about suing the state over McCleary funding.  From Crosscut:
“I would like it to be before the end of session,” Dorn said in an interview late last week, referring to the current session of the Legislature.   Dorn added that he had been trying to put together some kind of legal action on the issue since before the start of the legislative session.
That's pretty lickety-split, considering the session ends in early March.
The central focus of his legal action would be to get the state Supreme Court to rule on the legality of continuing to use local levies to supplement teacher and staff pay. The court has already ruled that paying for essential parts of education is a state duty, not a local one. But local districts continue to collect levies that pay for basic parts of public school operations.
As it stands, legal experts have called it an open question whether the McCleary decision rules out using levies to pay teacher and staff salaries. A ruling could block the planning or putting forward of further levies covering basic costs, which would set a hard deadline for when schools would start running out of money. That, in turn, could force the Legislature to act, Dorn said.
The Legislature is probably going to give this a collective yawn.

I do think Dorn could be aided by the Supreme Court, though. If I were a justice on the Supreme Court and saw the truly weak lack of progress on McCleary AND the full-court press on trying to pass (yet-another) unconstitutional charter bill, well, I'd be pretty aggravated. See: Kansas Supreme Court for possible choices of things that the Washington State Supreme Court can (and should) do.

2 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

Do I have this right? The idea is that Randy Dorn will bring a suit to prohibit school districts from spending local levy money on basic education expenses, including teacher salaries. Since this prohibition was sort of embedded in the McCleary decision, the Court could impose an injunction or something, which would, of course, throw school districts into chaos and, thereby, compel the legislature to act.

Of course, if the legislature obstinately failed to act then we would just have school districts in chaos and without the funding needed to pay teacher salaries.

Watching said...

I agree with you, Charlie. Filing a lawsuit and prohibiting school districts from spending local levy money has the capacity to tie the hands of the district, and we can't count on the legislature.

At one point, the state wanted to decrease Seattle's levy inflator, which would mean a loss of $6.1M. I don't know if the legislature lifted the cap.