The state Supreme Court gave the Legislature until Wednesday to come up with a detailed timeline on how to fund your child’s basic education.
That deadline will come and go without a plan because the Legislature failed to meet the court’s order.
This is about the McCleary decision, which is a title you’ve probably heard before: It comes from a 2007 legal case brought by parents and others who argued the state isn’t fully funding basic education, which is required by the state constitution.
The court agreed and ordered the Legislature to find the money to do so, roughly $3 billion to $7 billion in additional funding a year for K-12 education by many estimates. The Legislature gave itself until the 2017-18 school year to find the money.
Last year, lawmakers came up with about a billion dollars. This year, another $58 million was added.
The state Supreme Court wasn’t impressed and ordered the Legislature to submit a complete plan for how it would fund education by Wednesday. What the court will get is a 58-page document on all the great education bills that the Legislature reviewed but didn’t pass and highlight a few smaller bills that did pass.
“What we try to do in this report is not only describe what we did in the context but also kind of a road map of where we intend to go,” Democratic Senator David Frockt of Seattle said.
But that’s not what the court asked for.
State superintendent Randy Dorn said the report reads like a history lesson and isn’t even close to a plan. He hammered the Legislature saying it will not take its responsibility seriously until the court forces it to.
The court had hinted it might hold the Legislature in contempt if Wednesday’s report fell short, like it has.
But lawmakers say it’s not easy to come up with $3 billion to $7 billion a year in additional money.
It all comes down to how the Legislature chooses to find that money.
Democrats like Christine Rolfes believes the money will have to come from taxes. “The Republican mantra is ‘no new taxes’ so they have a very clear platform that some of them are going to have to back down in order for us to get something done,” she said.
But Republicans, like Senator Bruce Dammeier, said it’s the Democrats who are going to have to back down and cut spending for pet projects. “It’s a matter of priority first, and then we can have a discussion about raising taxes for other issues,” he said.
The Legislature tells the court in this report that 2015 is the most critical year in this funding process to meet its responsibility to fund basic education.
Will the court buy it? It is expected to respond to this report by mid-summer.