The Washington Supreme Court’s latest school funding critique found that the state Legislature is still falling far short of funding the quality public education students deserve, and the state is failing to make adequate progress toward the 2017-18 deadline for fully funding K-12 public schools.
Washington Education Association President Kim Mead said Washington’s students and school employees deserve fully funded schools, not more unfulfilled promises.
“The Supreme Court’s original McCleary decision was clear, and so is the Court’s latest report – the state is failing to fully fund K-12 public schools and the education our students deserve,” Mead said. “The Supreme Court’s deadline for fully funding public education is 2018. At this pace, the Legislature won’t meet the requirement to amply fund education for another 20 years. Our kids can’t wait that long. Their futures are at stake.”
Mead said the Court’s latest rebuke of the Legislature is no surprise. Washington’s class sizes are 47th out of 50 states, Washington’s teachers are the lowest paid among Pacific states and educators have gone nearly six years without a state cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). Since the McCleary decision in 2012, those statistics have gotten worse – not better.
“…nothing could be more basic than adequate pay,” the Court majority wrote. “The inescapable fact is that salaries for educators in Washington are no better now than when this case went to trial.”
The Court also wrote: “The Legislature is embarking on a short session in 2014, where it has an opportunity to take a significant step forward ... The need for immediate action could not be more apparent.”
Educators agree, and dozens of educators will be in Olympia on Monday, the first day of the legislative session, to lobby for the restoration of the educator COLA.
The Court ordered the Legislature to develop a plan by April 2014 for how the state will fully fund K-12 education – including educator salaries – by the 2017-18 school year. “… the pace of progress must quicken,” the Court wrote.
Mead said educators expect lawmakers to make a good faith effort toward increasing school funding as the Supreme Court ordered. She called on the House, the Senate, Gov. Jay Inslee and legislators from both major parties to find funding solutions now instead of waiting until the next biennium.
“There’s no doubt fully funding our K-12 public schools is a monumental task, but it’s the state’s constitutional paramount duty,” Mead said. “Instead of more delays and excuses, we need leadership and solutions.”