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Dorn urges Supreme Court to order consequences if state education funding unmet
The state Legislature and Gov. Jay Inslee should be given the 2015 session to make substantial progress on fully funding basic education. If that doesn’t happen, the Supreme Court should make clear that there will be certain consequences, including, if necessary, a requirement that the state be barred from funding non-education elements of the budget.
That’s the essence of a brief to be filed with the Supreme Court by state Superintendent Randy Dorn this afternoon. The brief concerns McCleary v. State of Washington, a January 2012 decision when the state Supreme Court determined the state isn’t meeting its constitutional duty to fully fund basic education.
“In 2009 and 2010, the Legislature passed a plan to fully fund basic education,” Dorn said in a press release from his office. “The Supreme Court accepted House Bills 2261 and 2776 as the plan. Now the court is saying the Legislature needs to fund the plan they, themselves, have adopted and I agree with the court.
“In 2013, the Legislature passed its first biennial budget to address McCleary," Dorn wrote in the brief. "It didn’t make much progress. If they continue on that course, they won’t meet the 2018 deadline. I’m asking the Court to hand the plaintiffs a hammer if enough isn’t accomplished in 2015. That hammer could stop spending that doesn’t apply to basic education.”
The court cited state law that imposes a 2018 deadline for full funding.
In the brief, Dorn proposes that, if the Court believes that the Legislature hasn’t made sufficient progress toward fully funding basic education in 2015, the court should allow the McCleary plaintiffs to petition the court for an order to bar any nonessential state spending that doesn’t satisfy McCleary.
That could include declaring all, or part, of the 2015-17 operating budget unconstitutional.
In April, the Legislature delivered a report to the court detailing its progress to date on meeting the decision, as well as a plan for the future. In its report, the Legislature acknowledged that it did not have a plan to achieve full funding by the 2018 deadline.
The court responded by ordering the Legislature to appear Sept. 3 and explain why it shouldn’t be sanctioned for lack of action.
Dorn’s brief argues that sanctions aren’t the best course of action at this time.
“As a former legislator, I understand the difficulty of the work that needs to be done,” he wrote. “There are only two major state budgets left before the 2018 deadline: 2015 and 2017. That leaves only two opportunities to satisfy McCleary.”
“This is an election year, so there will be new legislators in 2015,” he added. “I’m willing to let them do their work without the threat of sanctions. Right now, they’re about 20 yards into a 100-yard dash. They need a big surge in 2015.
“The most important thing to understand is that this issue is about students, not adults. It’s about what’s right for our students. It’s about giving them a quality education that will help them be successful in their futures. As a society, that’s our responsibility.”