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School Funding in the Courts

OPB | Jan. 11, 2012 9:30 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 11:04 p.m.

Washington’s state Supreme Court ruled that the state is not meeting its constitutional requirements when it comes to ample — not just adequate — education funding. The lengthy judicial opinion defines education as “the basic knowledge and skills needed to compete in today’s economy and meaningfully participate in this state’s democracy.” The opinion goes on to say,

The legislature must develop a basic education program geared toward delivering the constitutionally required education, and it must fully fund that program through regular and dependable tax sources.

The state has until 2018 to implement reforms, which the Legislature has already begun working on.

A similar case was brought before the state Supreme Court in Oregon in 2009, but the ruling in that case was very different. The Oregon justices said the Legislature had failed to fund schools at a sufficient level, but that the law allowed for this as long as lawmakers provided a report explaining the insufficient funds.

The Washington ruling will affect the legislative session that began Monday. The legislature is already dealing with a $1 billion budget gap and Governor Gregoire is using the ruling on education funding to support her call for a half-cent increase in the state’s sales tax. Republican Representative Bruce Dammeier says, “the court’s decision runs contrary to the approach being proposed by the governor for education funding.”

Have you been following this case? How will the ruling affect you?

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