Supreme Court rules for schools

The Washington State Supreme Court ruled last week that the state is not meeting its duty in funding basic education, which has resulted in an undue burden on districts and students.

“While we are still reviewing all the details, there is no doubt today’s decision by the State Supreme Court in the matter of McCleary v. State is a huge victory for Washington children and public education,” said Washington Education Association President Mary Lindquist. “With this decision, the Supreme Court has clearly agreed with the lower court’s decision that, for many years, the state has failed to fulfill its paramount constitutional duty: amply funding public education.”

According to the 7-2 decision, the state has failed in its constitutional obligation to “make ample provision for the basic education of all children in Washington.”

The court recognized the Legislature had enacted “a promising reform package” in 2009 and indicated that legislation, if funded, “will remedy deficiencies in the K-12 funding system.”

The case, filed in King County Superior Court in 2007 by a coalition of teachers, school districts and community groups, alleged that the state had failed to fund basic education and relied too heavily on local levy funding.

The Mercer Island School District was a member of the coalition of school districts, community groups and teachers around the state.

It was argued before the Washington State Supreme Court on June 28, 2011, by Senior Counsel Bill Clarke.

The Legislature convened on Jan. 9 and faces a roughly $2 billion shortfall.

This should come as no surprise, said Aaron Wyatt, spokesperson for the state board of education.

“The on-the-ground reality is that districts are using local levy dollars just to make end’s meet, and for many districts this is still not enough,” he said.

Within the last two years, the Mercer Island School District passed several levies to help pay for various items, including transportation costs and replacing items, like school boilers.

“The decision by the court, coming just days before the start of the 2012 legislative session, clearly puts the responsibility for correcting the underfunding where it belongs: the state Legislature. The Legislature can no longer punt on full funding for public education,” said Lindquist. “The Legislature needs to act immediately to remedy this injustice against our children and students.”

The Mercer Island School District has faced reduced funds from the state over the last several years.


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