The coalition of school districts, teachers unions and education activists that won the landmark school funding case last year want lawmakers to take quick and generous action this session.
Called the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools (NEWS), the group filed the litigation that became known as McCleary v. Washington. It was decided last January by a unanimous state Supreme Court that ruled the state was violating its constitutional duty to amply fund public schools. Seven of the nine justices then decided to retain jurisdiction to supervised how the Legislature and governor make annual progress toward a full-funding deadline of 2018.
The letter, signed by NEWS president Nick Brossoit, also the superintendent of the Edmonds School District, reminded lawmakers that the court’s first review of legislative action since the ruling was released was scolding.
“In December, the Court chastised the 2012 Legislature’s failure to make that Court-ordered progress, noting that “the overall level of funding remains below the levels that have been declared constitutionally inadequate.”
Here is the letter that was sent to all members of the Legislature this week:
February 18, 2013
Dear Members of the Washington State Legislature:
When you took your oath of office, you swore to uphold our State Constitution. As a Washington legislator, you are a role model for our children as someone who not only creates laws, but abides by them. The highest court in our state has now ordered you to abide by the Constitution and fully fund K-12 public education by 2018.
On behalf of the plaintiffs who prevailed in the landmark McCleary v. State lawsuit, I urge you to heed that Court order and fulfill your sworn constitutional duty by making real and measurable progress toward full funding this legislative session.
The Washington State Supreme Court ruled in the McCleary case in January 2012 that the Legislature must “amply” fund K-12 education and warned every legislator that “ample” means “considerably more than just adequate.” In December, the Court chastised the 2012 Legislature’s failure to make that Court-ordered progress,
noting that “the overall level of funding remains below the levels that have been declared constitutionally inadequate.”
The Court also reaffirmed that the “year 2018 remains a firm deadline for full constitutional compliance,” reminding each legislator that “we cannot wait until ‘graduation’ in 2018” for the State to begin to make progress toward meeting its constitutional paramount duty.”
During the McCleary trial, the State held up ESHB 2261 as its promise that the State will fully fund K-12 public education by 2018. The Supreme Court ordered the State to demonstrate “steady progress” every year to ensure that it crosses the ESHB 2261 goalpost by no later than 2018. That means the budget that you develop and approve this legislative session must catch up to the steady, real and measurable progress ordered by the Court.
(The enclosed chart illustrates what “steady progress” means.) This Court order cannot be ignored. Neither will the Court tolerate a moving of the goalpost when it comes to ESHB 2261, the benchmark the State itself promised for its down payment on full funding.
As the superintendent of one of the founding school districts in this legal action and in my current role as President of the 420-member Network for Excellence in Washington Schools – the coalition that filed the McCleary suit and prevailed – I call on you to make a significant and bold increase in K-12 funding this session.
The Supreme Court and the families of one million Washington students are watching to see if you will abide by the law.
Please, do not defy the Court order. Our children are depending upon you.
Nick Brossoit, Ed.D
President, Network for E