I realize this law blog is supposed to be about Washington real estate, business, and construction, but today education takes priority, because its important too. The (Tacoma) New Tribune posted an update story today on the McCleary v. State of Washington case, link here, story by Debbie Cafazzo.
This case is about a family from Chimacum, WA (the McClearys), who have successfully sued the State regarding adequate public funding for education. The case went to trial last year in King County and lasted 8 weeks. Judge John Erlick ultimately agreed with the McClearys and held that the State funding for education is neither "ample","stable", or "dependable".
So, perhaps you are wondering, what power does a judge have ruling that the legislature or the State is not adequately funding public education??? Well it actually comes down to an interpretation of our State's Constitution.
Article IX of the Washington State Constitution deals entirely with Education. Section 1 of Article IX reads as follows: "It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex." Well clearly, for the McClearys and Judge Erlick education was not made a "paramount duty of the state", hence the finding that more needs to be done.
The McCleary case is currently before the WA Supreme Court, briefing and filings can be found here. The McCleary case is not the first time the WA Supreme Court has looked at public funding for education. In 1978, Seattle School District v. State of WA, went before the court and the ruling was that the legislature must define and fully fund "basic education" with "dependable and regular tax sources." However, the court also held that although the State had a constitutional duty to fund education, it also found that the Legislature had authority to relieve itself of such duties. The McCleary case should make for an interesting revisit of the Seattle School Dist. decision.
As also posted in the TNT article it appears other school districts are joining in the McClearys fight and the latest are from Pierce County: Tacoma, University Place, and Sumner.