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They did it! Washington has finally fully funded education

Washington State Supreme Court. (Harvey Barrison, Flickr)

The Washington State Supreme Court announced Thursday that state lawmakers have finally fully funded K-12 education as ordered through the famous McCleary decision.

RELATED: Do Washington schools already have enough money?

As a result, the Supreme Court will remove a $100,000 daily penalty that was imposed on lawmakers for failing to meet their duty.

The June 7, 2018 court order, posted on the state Supreme Court website, states:

The court concludes that the State has complied with the court’s orders to fully implement its statutory program of basic education by September 1, 2018, and has purged its contempt. This justifies the terminations of the court’s retained jurisdiction and the lifting of the contempt sanctions.

(1) The monetary penalty of $100,000 per day is lifted and the court approves the expenditure of funds deposited into the dedicated McCleary penalty account for the support of basic K-12 education. 

In a statement, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the decision affirms that the state has turned a corner in education spending.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision affirms that, at long last, our Legislature is providing the funding necessary to cover the basic costs of our K-12 schools. Reversing decades of underfunding has been among the heaviest lifts we’ve faced in recent years and required difficult and complex decisions, but I’m incredibly proud and grateful for all those who came together on a bipartisan basis to get this job done,” Inlsee said.

Washington’s McCleary decision

The McCleary decision has become well-known in Washington, especially among families with students in the public school system. Section IX of Washington’s constitution orders state lawmakers to fully fund education. Families sued the state in 2007, arguing that legislators were not adequately funding the K-12 system. This forced school districts to rely on levy funding. Wealthier communities could afford such levies more than poorer ones, leading to unequal access to education.

The lawsuit led to years of hearings and all the way to the state supreme court. Lawmakers were ordered by the Supreme Court to begin fully funding education in 2012. Since then, they have attempted to modify the state budget to accomplish this. Lawmakers, however, were found to be in contempt of court in 2015 for failing to make significant progress toward funding education. As a result, the state essentially fined itself $100,000 a day in penalties. Those funds have been reserved for education funding.

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