Washington Court Holds Legislature in Contempt Over School Funding

Published September 29, 2015

The Washington State Supreme Court (WSC) is holding the State Legislature in contempt because lawmakers haven’t fulfilled a previous court ruling that requires the legislature to devise a plan to increase school funding for Washington’s public education system by billions of dollars.

The sanction, which was announced on August 14, includes a $100,000-per-day fine.

In McCleary v. State of Washington, a case brought by teachers unions and some parents in 2012, WSC determined Washington lawmakers violated the state’s constitution by underfunding public schools. The ruling does not specify a fiscal remedy. 

“Our teachers unions sought a greater investment and knew that ‘adequacy lawsuits’ were proving successful in some other states,” said Jami Lund, a senior policy analyst at the Washington-based Freedom Foundation.

“The court required the state to do more than had been done,” Lund said. “Services like full-day kindergarten, more high school credit requirements, and smaller class sizes were ordered, even though the law did not have them as part of the basic education obligation.” 

Liv Finne, director of the Center for Education Policy at the Washington Policy Center, says the state’s per-pupil spending has increased by $2,500 since the McCreary decision, and an extraordinary proportion of the state’s education spending goes to non-classroom items. 

“Only 60 percent of public school money is spent in the classroom,” said Finne. “Compare that with 85 percent to 90 percent of private school money being spent in the classroom.”

Bruce Edward Walker ([email protected]) is a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute.

Image by Pictures of Money.