State Has Met It’s Education Funding Requirements, Says Attorney General
Some may not have heard of the McCleary Decision, but it's largely the reason why the Washington State Legislature has had to go overtime at least four of the last five years in Olympia. It's largely the reason the state has had such difficulty balancing it's budget.
But now, according to Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, he has ruled the most recent budget now gets the state to where the Supreme Court has ruled it should be for spending on education. So, now the McCleary Decision can go away.
Back in 2012, after a lengthy lawsuit, the State Supreme Court ruled that the legislature was violating the State Constitution by not "fully funding" K-12 education. Two families, one of them named McCleary, urged on by school districts, sued the state, claiming not enough money was spent on education.
The result in 2012 was a confusing (still to this day) decision especially about how much funding was required to be "fully funded." Cynics said educators had a vested interest in the lawsuit, including the Teachers Union, because it would mean more money for them. Supporters said poorer school districts suffered from a lack of funding.
This week, State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the state now has satisfied the McCleary funding levels, spending nearly twice as much as it did in 2012. It remains unseen whether the Supreme Court will agree.
Currently, Washington state spends 34.1 percent of it's entire budget on education, landing it in the top ten in the U.S. according to 2015 figures from The Washington Examiner. Those figures are sure to increase from the 2016 budget. Washington spends more of it's total state budget on education than any other area, including social programs.
Critics said the State Supreme Court overstepped it bounds on the McCleary decision, saying the courts could not legally force the legislature to pass certain bills. It was a violation of separation of powers. It's been one of the most controversial court decisions state-wise, in the nation.
The reason the state legislature has gone to over time so many times (extended sessions) is because they have struggled where to find the money to fulfill the McCleary requirements.