McCleary, Supreme Court and Legislature (Oh, and Randy Dorn)

Seems everyone wants to weigh in on what "work" the Legislature got done on McCleary.  I was at an event on Saturday where Speaker Frank Chopp made it sound like much got done.

The place to read most responses is the Washington State Courts website.  You can read:
  • Attorney General Bob Ferguson's response
  • Plaintiffs' response (the actual McClearys)
Additionally, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn also put out a statement (partial here):

“Every elected official, including me, is required to take an oath of office,” Dorn said. “Part of that oath is, ‘I do solemnly swear that I will support … the Constitution and laws of the state of Washington.’ 

“Many people don’t understand that our state constitution explicitly mentions one — and only one — paramount duty: that the state ‘make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders,’ and that the system of public schools shall be general and uniform. 

“The most recent budget passed by the Legislature doesn’t even come close to that. In fact, it 
increases the state’s dependence on local levies, which the Court has ruled is unconstitutional.” 

A random survey of 12 districts highlights the problem. State funding for school personnel is less than those employees’ actual salaries. As an example, the state allocated an average of $31,865 per classified employee in the Bellingham School District for 2014–15. But the district paid, on average, $45,119 for each position. That means the district had to make up the difference by paying the additional $13,254, using local levies. 

The problem is compounded by the 2015–17 operating budget. The three percent cost-of-living adjustment that legislators approved applies only to the state-funded portion of each employee’s salary. In 2015–16, Bellingham will have to pay an additional $13,651 per classified position ($13,254 times 103 percent). 

“Some districts can pass levies a lot more easily than others,” Dorn said. “This is leading to a situation of haves versus have-nots. In other words, some districts are getting a 21st century education, while others are still getting a 20th century education. 

“That’s why I’m calling for all 147 legislators to come back together to work on their paramount duty and produce a general and uniform system.”


dan dempsey said…
'The time for this Court to act is now'
NEWS filed a brief with the Washington State Supreme Court today showing that the Legislature has failed to comply with the Court's orders to show "steady, real and measurable progress" in fully and amply funding K-12 public education. NEWS urged, "The time for this Court to act is now."

NEWS asked the Court, which held the State in contempt last year, to impose sanctions to compel the State to act.

"The State's ongoing violation of its paramount education funding duty - and of Washington children's corresponding paramount constitutional right - has been continuing for far too long. Plaintiffs therefore respectfully submit that the time has come for this Court to make what some would call a 'fish or cut bait' decision. Either stand up and enforce Washington schoolchildren's positive constitutional right to an amply funded education, or sit down and confess it was only kidding when it assured Washington schoolchildren that this Court would vigilantly protect them from the government's violation of their constitutional rights."


OSPI is suggesting the Court shut down the schools. Wow.
dan dempsey said…
The court website link Melissa provided allows reading of the documents filed July 27. Plantiff / Respondents' filing is greatly different than the Attorney General's filing.

AG states:

The State also is making progress toward completing the final task remaining from the Court’s 2012 decision: paying for basic education salaries entirely with state funds rather than partly with local excess levies. This is the most contentious of the requirements the Court identified. It will require the Legislature not only to choose how to come up with the money—through taxation, revenue growth, cutting other programs, transferring taxing authority, or some combination of these options—but also to make difficult policy decisions such as establishing limits on raising and using local levies and determining whether staff salaries should vary based on local market forces. There are no easy solutions to these questions; indeed, even local school district officials, teachers, and others in the education community—many of whom are members of Respondents’ coalition in this lawsuit—disagree as to the proper approach. But three things are clear:
(1) these are quintessentially legislative choices;
(2) the 2015 Legislature took important steps towards resolving them; and
(3) sufficient time remains before this Court’s 2018 deadline for the Legislature to reach agreement. The Court should not dictate these fundamental policy choices.

Last September the Court held the State in contempt for failing to submit a plan explaining how the State would achieve constitutional compliance by 2018. Although work remains to be done, the 2015 Legislature’s actions move the State closer to ultimate constitutional compliance than any written plan would have done, and continuing to demand a plan at this point would serve no useful purpose. The contempt order should be dissolved.

The AG points out that a huge task remains unresolved, yet expects the court to believe sufficient progress has been made thus far. ... That seems like a hard sell.
Anonymous said…
As long as legislators from low income, rural districts can influence pay rates on the more prosperous "Wet" side, I am not holding my breath.

Anonymous said…
Just pull the tax breaks already! I can't handle a fourth circle jerk session.


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