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WA State Supreme Court Urged to Force Legislative Special Session on Funding

State Supreme Court urged to force Legislative special session on education
(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

It’s another first for any state in the union, but NOT the kind of distinction anyone wants.

In 2007, Washington state became the FIRST in the U.S. to have it’s own state Supreme Court “sue” the Legislature over an issue.    You may have heard of the McCleary Decision.   In a nutshell, a group of teachers unions, a few school districts and some parents, got together and after five years of litigation, persuaded the Washington State Supreme Court to “pressure” the House and Senate to shovel more money at education.

We’ve had Initiatives and laws that were passed by voters that were later challenged in court and declared “unconstitutional.”  But nobody’s ever had their State Supreme court used as a tool to influence the Legislature on an ongoing basis like this.

According to an op-ed piece by the Washington Policy Center:

“The McCleary plaintiffs persuaded the Supreme Court, in the January 2012 McCleary decision, to rule the state had failed to fully fund the schools. In that decision, the Court deferred to the Legislature’s chosen means for funding education, but also required reports on progress towards full funding.

The Legislature responded by increasing funding for schools by $1.6 billion to $15.2 billion in the current 2013-15 budget, and by indicating it will increase funding for schools in the future.”

But now, these McCleary plaintiffs are back with the SAME arguments, except now they’re demanding certain parts of the educational system be specifically funded.   The most alarming part of their argument is their lead attorney has asked the Supreme Court to consider the following in order to “get their way”:

  • fines against legislators over the way schools are funded
  • prohibit increased spending on other parts of the state budget (transportation etc)
  • and the most alarming, cut off school funding altogether.

According to the WPC report:

‘The McCleary plaintiffs, who include the state teachers union, also ask the Court to consider shutting down the schools in order to get more money, which sounds like a strike against all of Washington’s 2,300 schools.”  (Bold lettering added for emphasis).

Shutting down public schools until the plaintiffs get the spending they want?  As the WPC says, the Supreme Court has already entered uncharted waters by interfering with the Legislative branch.   Choosing to act upon any of these “suggestions” would take state government, or government in the U.S., where it’s never gone before – and not in a good way.

The McCleary plaintiffs are urging the Supreme Court to demand a special session by the Legislature to address these issues,  and if it doesn’t happen, they want these “strong-arm” techniques to be utilized.

Washington state already spends more per student for K-12 Education than any other state in the union.   But have the academic standards mirrored that?  According to numerous test results and research studies,  no.

 

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