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By Max Erikson

McCleary still in limbo


November 8, 2017

On Oct. 24 the Washington State Supreme Court held an initial review hearing of the State Legislature’s $7.3 billion school funding budget in response to the Court’s McCleary decision ruling.

The 2012 McCleary decision by the Court ruled that the state was out of compliance with the Washington State constitution and that the state was not amply funding basic education to Washington schools.

The attorney for the state and an attorney for the plaintiffs addressed the court, with both sides disagreeing on the new proposed budget and if the projected amount of dollars will be enough to bring the state into compliance.

Alan Copsey, deputy solicitor general for the state, argued that the new proposed budget will bring the state into compliance, while attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that the new budget still falls short by possibly billions of dollars. Copsey said that the $7.3 billion budget plan will cover the cost of basic education but concedes that the funding plan will not be fully implemented by the 2018 deadline.

According to Copsey, the funding will not be available because of the complex property tax swap that took place—reducing local school levy dollars with increased state property taxes—the funding plan will need more time to take effect, and Copsey says those funds from increased property taxes won’t be fully available until 2019.

Tom Ahearne, the attorney representing school districts, teacher groups, and a coalition of parents, says that though the funding bill is a move in the right direction, the budget proposal will still leave many school districts short on money, with the biggest funding challenge being for special education.

Justices were reported to be frustrated with the lack of specifics by both sides, and the Supreme Court did not make a ruling on whether the proposed budget is in compliance.

The court will not make a ruling on it for several months, and justices must now analyze and decipher budget documents to see if the funding plan will comply.

It is likely the Court will retain jurisdiction over the case until it becomes clear that the budget proposal will be in compliance with the McCleary decision.

It is possible that in the next legislative session beginning in January that there can be some small adjustments to the funding plan but no drastic overhaul is expected to occur.


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