Supreme Court to hear McCleary progress

Jus­tices want to hear how law­mak­ers plan to fund pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion with “reg­u­lar rev­enue sources.”

The Daily Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By Jerry Corn­field Her­ald Writer

OLYMPIA — The le­gal bat­tle on pub­lic school fi­nanc­ing re­turns to the state Supreme Court on Wed­nes­day as jus­tices pon­der dis­missal of a con­tempt or­der and $100,000-a-day fine against the Leg­is­la­ture.

Jus­tices plan to con­vene a hear­ing to learn what’s left for the state to do to en­sure pub­lic schools are am­ply funded by a 2018 dead­line set by the court in the McCleary case. The hear­ing is slated to start at 9 a.m. and last one hour.

Jus­tices, in their July 14 or­der set­ting the hear­ing, said they want a progress re­port on what’s been ac­com­plished and what re­mains to be done. They also want es­ti­mates of the price tag for pay­ing teach­ers a com­pet­i­tive salary and hav­ing enough staff and class­rooms to pro­vide for all-day kinder­garten and smaller class sizes through third grade.

And the court wants the state’s lawyers to be pre­pared to an­swer ques­tions on how law­mak­ers in­tend to meet these fi­nan­cial obli­ga­tions with “de­pend­able and reg­u­lar rev­enue sources.”

“What re­mains to be done to achieve com­pli­ance is un­de­ni­ably huge, but it is not un­de­fin­able,” Chief Jus­tice Bar­bara Mad­sen wrote in the or­der. “The State can cer­tainly set out for the court and the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton the de­tailed steps it must take to ac­com­plish its goals by the end of the next leg­isla­tive ses­sion.”

At­tor­neys for the fam­i­lies who brought the suit will get equal time to re­spond.

In its brief in ad­vance of the hear­ing, the at­tor­ney for the Leg­is­la­ture out­lined the re­main­ing tasks but did not say how that would be paid for.

“This is a de­ci­sion for the 2017 Leg­is­la­ture and can­not be an­swered at this time,” wrote Se­nior As­sis­tant At­tor­ney Gen­eral Dave Stolier.

An­other ques­tion jus­tices may bring up is when ex­actly is the dead­line. Stolier con­tends it is Sept. 1, 2018, while the plain­tiffs’ lawyer as­serts that the court has said every­thing must be in place by the 2017-18 school year.

“The State’s re­quest for an ad­di­tional year of de­lay is un­der­stand­able given the huge task that its long­stand­ing pro­cras­ti­na­tion has punted to the 2017 Leg­is­la­ture,” at­tor­ney Thomas Ahearne wrote in his brief for this hear­ing.

Su­per­in­ten­dent of Pub­lic In­struc­tion Randy Dorn said he’ll be in the court­room Wed­nes­day.

“I am go­ing there to lis­ten first­hand to what they tell the jus­tices they did do last ses­sion,” Dorn said, not­ing in his opin­ion law­mak­ers failed to move the ball.

His of­fice filed a friend-of-the-court brief for the hear­ing. In it he urged jus­tices to not dis­miss the con­tempt or­der. And it says if law­mak­ers don’t ad­dress the out­stand­ing is­sues, in­clud­ing com­pen­sa­tion, in 2017, the court should im­pose tougher sanc­tions.

A law­suit filed in 2007 by par­ents and ed­u­ca­tors led to the 2012 McCleary rul­ing by the Supreme Court that state fund­ing for ed­u­ca­tion is not ad­e­quate, eq­ui­table or am­ple. The court gave law­mak­ers un­til 2018 to fix the prob­lems and de­manded yearly progress re­ports from them.

In 2014, the court held the state in con­tempt for fail­ing to sub­mit a com­plete plan for meet­ing the 2018 dead­line. In Au­gust 2015, with no plan sub­mit­ted, the court added the $100,000-a-day sanc­tion.

In its brief, Stolier ar­gues the con­tempt or­der should be dis­missed and sanc­tion lifted be­cause the Leg­is­la­ture passed a bill ear­lier this year that pro­vides the de­tailed blue­print de­sired by the court.

Ahearne coun­ters that noth­ing has changed and the court should be pre­pared to en­force more strin­gent sanc­tions if the 2017 Leg­is­la­ture fails to com­plete all the re­quired tasks.

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