Education advocates are hoping a ruling from Washington State Supreme Court, which called the legislature’s underfunding of schools illegal, will keep lawmakers from cutting school funds again this year.
The 7-2 ruling came just a couple days before legislators returned to Olympia to deal with a $1 billion budget shortfall.
Before the legislative session, Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed cutting the school year by four days to save money. Education makes up about a quarter of the state’s budget.
The Supreme Court ruling upheld previous court decisions, saying that the legislature wasn’t funding “basic education” as required in the state’s constitution.
The ruling validates what the Issaquah School District has experienced with budget cuts, but it’s not a “windfall for schools,” said Supt. Steve Rasmussen. At the very least, it sends a message to lawmakers about further cutting k-12 education, he said.
“But it will take some serious reform before we get a funding system that comes close to covering the actual cost of a basic education in this state,” Rasmussen added.
State School Superintendent Randy Dorn hailed the court’s ruling as another victory in a long legal battle to fund education.
“The ruling confirms what I have been saying for many years: education funding has not been adequate, and further cuts are out of the question.”
The case, McCleary v. State, was filed in 2007 by a variety of groups, including the state’s PTSA. Issaquah supported the suit by filing a formal supporting document. It was also one of the few districts called upon to provide financial information for the plaintiff’s arguments.
In addition to the ruling, the court put itself in charge of making sure the Legislature and the governor implement needed financial reforms by 2018.