Federal Way schools fight for funding; call governor's budget ‘unconstitutional’

The governor's budget is unconstitutional, according to the Federal Way School District.

On Tuesday, the Federal Way School Board passed a resolution supporting Superintendent Tom Murphy and his letters to the Legislature urging that education be funded first.

"I really appreciate your support," Murphy said. "To me it's a simple process. Look at the only duty in the constitution. The money exists to do this without raising taxes. Stop pretending you have to raise taxes to fully fund education. We should continue to fight for this until we can no longer stand."

Murphy has been vocal in his displeasure of Gov. Christine Gregoire's budget, which dramatically cuts the state's education budget.

Federal Way stands to lose at least $5 million from the usual funding in the proposed budget.

The resolution cites Article IX of the Washington State Constitution, which states that it is "the paramount duty of the state to make ample provisions for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.”

The school district argues that since the funding of education is the only mandate in the constitution that specifically states that something must be fully funded, then education should be taken care of first — without any cuts.

The resolution also brought up Federal Way's ongoing fair funding lawsuit that the district won in 2007, but is currently being appealed by the state.

The resolution reads: "Now, therefore, be it resolved, that the Federal Way Public Schools Board of Directors ask our Legislators and Governor to stand with us for our children, use their political power and existing State resources, exercise their political will, reject the Governor’s initial budget proposal; fulfill the promise and mandate of our State Constitution and fully fund Special Education, Transportation, and Fair Funding. Restore suggested cuts in Levy Equalization, I-728, and I-732; withdraw the appeal of the Fair Funding decision and fix this unequal and unjust funding problem."

Murphy also sent a letter to the Puget Sound Education Service District superintendents, which includes all superintendents in King and Pierce counties, urging them to enact a similar resolution and join him in his letter to the governor, state representatives and senators.

The group was expected to vote on Thursday, Jan. 15, after The Mirror's press deadline.

"We want a fully-funded 21st century education," school board member Amye Bronson-Doherty said. "Not a 1970s education."

The Federal Way action is believed to be the first of its kind, spokeswoman Diane Turner said.

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