Dorn Recommends Five Dramatic Options to Supreme Court to Force Full State Funding of Education
OLYMPIA — June 8, 2016 — For at least the past two years, I’ve consistently said that the state isn’t meeting its constitutional requirement to fund basic education.
And just as consistently, the state Supreme Court has agreed with me.
The 2016 Legislature did virtually nothing to change that. The deadline for meeting the requirements of McCleary v. Washington is in 2018. The deadline isn’t the Court’s, though: It came from legislation passed by the state.
In other words, the Legislature is nearing its self-imposed deadline.
On June 7, my office filed an amicus brief with the state Supreme Court. Initially, I was hopeful that the Court’s $100,000-a-day fine to the state would be enough to spur action. It was not.
So tougher sanctions are now needed.
In the brief I present the Court with five options:
- Hold individual legislators in contempt and subject to a remedial penalty
- Prevent the payment of special levy funds to school districts
- Prevent the operation of certain state tax credits and exemptions
- Prevent the expenditure of non-education state funds that are not constitutionally required or otherwise necessary
- And finally, close our public schools until the legislature makes real progress in fully funding our schools
As I note in the brief, the Court previously stopped imposing the $100,000-a-day penalty on the state while it was in session. Along those lines, I would support stopping the fine if the Legislature holds a special session on funding this fall or if new members are required to attend an education workshop, in which they will learn about basic education and their constitutional duties regarding basic education.
These options are dramatic, but it is clear by now that the Governor and the Legislature will continue to ignore the Court and continue to avoid doing their constitutional duty until the Court does something dramatic. That time has come.
It saddens me that we’ve come to this point. It saddens me that not enough legislators either understand or care about the fact that providing an ample and uniform education is this state’s “paramount duty.” Our constitution names no other paramount duties but education. Yet basic education continues to be underfunded, as well as funded unequally.
Our students deserve better. I hope the Supreme Court understands this and takes real, meaningful action.
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K–12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine educational service districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.
OSPI provides equal access to all programs and services without discrimination based on sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability. Questions and complaints of alleged discrimination should be directed to the Equity and Civil Rights Director at (360) 725-6162 or P.O. Box 47200, Olympia, WA 98504-7200.
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