Law & Courts News in Brief

Washington State’s High Court Threatens Penalties Over Funding

By Andrew Ujifusa — July 08, 2014 1 min read
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Although Washington state’s top court is demanding that elected officials present a new plan to boost K-12 spending—and set an early September court date to view it—legislators and Gov. Jay Inslee say there’s virtually no chance they’ll convene to craft a fresh strategy before then.

In a court order last month, the state Supreme Court warned that if officials don’t outline a budgetary approach acceptable to the court, it could find the state in contempt and impose a range of penalties, including a halt to funding for public schools, or forcing the state to sell assets to increase education spending.

But legislators say it’s unlikely the court will act on such threats that lawmakers say represent distractions from efforts to comply with the court’s ruling more than two years ago in McCleary v. Washington. It held that the state’s education system was unconstitutional because of low funding levels.

“This is something I think we have to resolve in the budget session in January,” said Democratic Rep. Ross Hunter, the chairman of the House appropriations committee. He said he has serious doubts that the court will take any action effectively forcing schools to close just as the 2014-15 academic year gets started.

And Jaime Smith, a spokeswoman for Gov. Inslee, also a Democrat, said the likelihood of a special session this summer to address the court order “remains pretty low” because lawmakers haven’t shown interest in trying to tackle education spending again this year.

While lawmakers have increased school funding by about $1 billion since the McCleary ruling, the new spending level falls short of a plan they previously outlined to raise spending enough to satisfy the court.

A version of this article appeared in the July 10, 2014 edition of Education Week as Washington State’s High Court Threatens Penalties Over Funding

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