School district joins another lawsuit

A lawsuit brought by the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools (NEWS) began its court case on Monday.

NEWS is comprised of over 70 groups, including community organizations, school districts and educational associations, including Federal Way Public Schools.

The lawsuit contends that the state does not live up to their constitutional duty to provide enough funding for Washington children.

This is not the first time the district has been part of a lawsuit against the state over funding.

The district has previously sued over special education funding, as well as fair funding.

The fair funding lawsuit was originated by FWPS. The Federal Way district won its case, however, the state chose to appeal the case to the State Supreme Court, which heard the case earlier this summer. A decision is expected sometime next year.

The cost for Federal Way to participate in the NEWS lawsuit is estimated to be around $30,000. The board voted to authorize a maximum of $15,000 per year for the two years it was expected to take for the lawsuit.

Financially the district has made out fairly well in its previous lawsuits. Although the district did ultimately lose its special education funding lawsuit, the state did make changes in its funding formula as a result, which brought in more funding.

The fair funding lawsuit is still being looked at by the State Supreme Court, but changes have brought in more funding to the district.

State funding has improved as a result of those lawsuits, netting the district an additional $4.6 million over four years. The district had spent $700,000 on litigation costs in the two lawsuits by last fall.

FWPS is not a plaintiff in this current lawsuit though, it is only a member of the NEWS organization, along with other large school districts including Seattle, Bellevue and Kent.

FWPS school board voted on Oct. 14, 2008, to support the lawsuit.

The main difference in the Fair Funding lawsuit and the NEWS case is the NEWS lawsuit is about whether the state provides enough funding, the sample referred to in the state constitution, to educate children. The Fair Funding lawsuit filed by FWPS is about how school funding is apportioned by the state. It challenges whether funding is constitutional, particularly how salaries are paid for in each district.

The FWPS lawsuit does not address the issue of whether the state provides enough funding to schools overall. It does address how what is provided is divided up.

The lawsuit was first brought forth by the Chimacum School District in January 2007.

Since then others have quickly jumped on board with the district.

The trial is expected to last about six weeks.

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