Court finds state violates school funding mandate

A court decision reached last Thursday by the King County Superior Court found that Washington state does not amply fund public education.

The case, brought against the state by the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools (NEWS), was heard last fall. The group, a combination of parents, school districts, teachers and students, claimed that the state was not funding public education as outlined in the state constitution, which says, “it is 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.”

Judge John Erlick said he agreed that the state is not meeting its constitutional duty and ordered the Legislature to find the actual costs of funding an ample education, and then to fund it with actual sources.

According to his written opinion, “the state must also comply with the constitutional mandate to provide stable and dependable funding for such costs of basic education. Funding must be based as closely as reasonably practicable on the actual costs of providing such programs of basic education. The means of fulfilling this constitutional mandate properly fall within the prerogative of the Legislature.”

During last year’s legislative session, the state approved the bill, outlining a new plan for education funding in Washington and creating a goal of reforming funding by 2018. Many feel that something needs to be done sooner, especially given the harsh cuts to schools last year and those expected again this year.

“I was pleased to learn this morning that Judge Erlick rules in favor of the coalition of parents, school districts and teachers,” said Mercer Island School District Superintendent Gary Plano. “If education is the state’s paramount duty, how does one explain cuts to the education budget? I’m thankful to work in a community such as Mercer Island that values public education through its support of local levies.”

Currently, Washington is ranked 42nd in the nation for per-pupil spending.

Results of the Feb. 9 special election became available on Tuesday evening after Reporter deadline. On the ballot were three levies for the Mercer Island School District.

See our Web site for a full list of election results.

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