Now that McCleary is settled, education is safe, until …

Jun 8, 2018, 1:52 PM | Updated: Jun 9, 2018, 9:50 am

Now that Washington has put the McCleary case to bed, communities can rest well knowing schools will have full funding from the Legislature.

At least, until lawmakers decide to underfund schools again.

RELATED: Washington finally fully funds education

“We’ve done this twice in 30 years,” former Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross, noting that there was a similar case in 1977 that resulted in the “Doran decision.”

The Doran decision ordered state lawmakers to increase funding so school districts could decrease reliance on levies. The argument: Washington’s constitution requires the Legislature to fully fund education. The case made its way to the Supreme Court where lawmakers were ordered to get their act together.

If that sounds familiar, it’s probably because it’s the same exact story that played out with the McCleary decision. That case began in 2007 and recently culminated at the Supreme Court, yet again.

“And 30 years later, we’re back in court again and get to the same result,” McKenna said. “Who knows what will happen over the next three decades?”

“It’s up to the Legislature to keep doing the right thing by funding the schools,” he added. “And if they stop doing it, then they will find themselves back in court.”

Doran, McCleary, and whatever comes next

KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross notes there is a debate over using the courts to set policy. But McKenna said the court was likely the plan from the start when it came to the McCleary lawsuit.

“They passed a law expanding the definition of basic education and the Legislature didn’t fund it,” McKenna said. “They knew that was setting them up for a court case … So I actually think this was part of the plan. It was basically to tell the court ‘Make us do this.’”

This benefited lawmakers. Olympia is often politically charged and divisive. It can be hard to agree on even simple, and commonly supported, things like funding education. With the court forcing lawmakers to do it, they have a pass.

“That allows the Legislature to tell other constituencies that are competing for state funding, ‘Hey, sorry, we are under a court order. We have to expand funding for our public schools,’” McKenna said.


Whether or not another court case is down the road, McKenna said Washingtonians can expect levies to decrease in the meantime. After the Doran decision in the late ’70s, levies went from amounting to 25 percent of school budgeting to less than 10 percent. Of course, lawmakers eventually changed that, leading to the recent case.

“(McCleary) reversed a long-term trend where the share of the state budget going to K-12 schools, and higher education, was steadily shrinking,” McKenna said. “That trend has been reversed and now, for the first time in many decades, public education accounts for more than half of the state budget again.”

“Over time, it means that not only will we see enhanced education, many people in many school districts in the state will see a reduction in school levies because of the cap placed on how much money can come from local levies to fund schools,” he said.

Local News

Nurses admit a patient transferred from the ICU COVID unit to the acute care COVID unit at Harborvi...
Nicole Jennings

Legislature debates WA hospital staffing ratios as healthcare labor problem steeps

Hospital administrators and health workers are divided over a bill that would mandate staffing ratios in different hospital departments.
1 day ago
homes, single family zoning, moving company, Puget Sound housing...
Nick Bowman

Puget Sound housing market hits record numbers as prices continue to soar

Despite historically low inventory, the Puget Sound region housing market set records in 2021, as prices continued skyward.
1 day ago
MyNorthwest Staff

‘Right to repair’ bill would give Washington state consumers control over electronics repair

Washington state’s Legislature is considering a consumer protection bill intended to make it easier to repair personal electronics.
1 day ago
Nick Bowman

State lawmakers take up abortion debate amid uncertain future for Roe v. Wade

The national debate surrounding abortion and reproductive rights is also taking place in Washington during 2022's legislative session.
1 day ago
downtown shooting...
KIRO Newsradio staff

Open investigation after downtown Seattle shooting sends one to hospital

A 31-year-old man was transported to Harborview Medical Center on Wednesday after a shooting in downtown Seattle.
1 day ago
COVID Washington two years...
Nick Bowman

2 years after Washington identified nation’s first COVID case, future of pandemic remains unclear

As of this week, it's now been exactly two years since the first case COVID-19 cases was identified in both Washington and the United States. 
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles


Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]

COVID Vaccine is a Game-Changer for Keeping our Kids Healthy

Snohomish Health District SPONSORED — Cheers to the parents and guardians who keep their kids safe and healthy. The dad who cooks a meal with something green in it, even though he’s tired and drive-thru burgers were tempting. The mom who calms down the little one who loudly and resolutely does NOT want to brush […]
Experience Anacortes

Coastal Christmas Celebration Week in Anacortes

With minimal travel time required and every activity under the sun, Anacortes is the perfect vacation spot for all ages.

Delayed-Onset PTSD: Signs and Symptoms

Lakeside-Milam Recovery Centers SPONSORED — You’re probably familiar with post-traumatic stress disorder. Often abbreviated as PTSD, this condition is diagnosed when a person experiences a set of symptoms for at least a month after a traumatic event. However, for some people, these issues take longer to develop. This results in a diagnosis of delayed-onset PTSD […]

Medicare open enrollment ends Dec. 7. Free unbiased help is here!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]
Now that McCleary is settled, education is safe, until …