With some degree of glee, I can report to you today that a Judge has finally confirmed what we knew 25 years ago – Washington State does not fully fund basic education:
The state of Washington is not fulfilling its constitutional duty to fully pay for basic public education, a King County judge ruled Thursday.The decision from Superior Court Judge John Erlick came after nearly two months of testimony last fall in a lawsuit brought by a coalition of school districts, parents, teachers and community leaders. They said the state was failing its constitutional duty and leaving school districts to rely on local levies, donations and PTA fundraisers to educate students.By DONNA GORDON BLANKINSHIP
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
So, you might ask – What are they failing to fund?
From my history as a teacher in Washington during the onset of collective bargaining, consistent with my experience as principal in White River Schools, and in connection with my aspirations to the superintendency, here is my list:
- a litany of unfunded mandates in the form of specialty legislation that has increased bureaucracy in schools to the point of choking leadership and gagging teachers.
- a definition of basic education under the first lawsuit that was drafted to fit what the legislature wanted to spend rather than as a function of what was required to actually do the job and do it well
- a stopgap approach to limiting funding of that definition that included a levy lid, and then levy equalization, and then TRI, and then school improvement, and then….. – you get the picture – one bandaid after another that never addressed the core problem with the first definition
- a regressive tax system that leaves us with little option to address this court decision without completely abandoning the current system in favor of something far more fair and even – something that is unlikely to happen in the current partisan environment
If you are cheering this decision like I am, be aware that our cheers will likely fall on deaf ears. First, the decision comes after the legislature has already moved past its self-imposed deadline for bills to come out of committee. Thus, unlikely to get much more than status quo for this session. Do I hear “special session” in the wind?
Second, and also likely, there are appeals that will be played out all the way to the State Supreme Court. Stay tuned. Long road ahead.