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Washington Supreme Court hears latest McCleary school funding arguments

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Adam Aguilera
English teacher Adam Aguilera talks to reporters about the Supreme Court's McCleary hearing Oct. 24.

In the latest hearing related to the McCleary school funding case, a state attorney admitted the state will miss the Sept. 1, 2018 deadline for amply funding basic education.

The same attorney also argued that despite missing the upcoming deadline, the state is in compliance with the Washington Supreme Court’s original McCleary ruling from five years ago.

Educators at the hearing expressed frustration with the state’s ongoing delays.

They said educators know from firsthand experience that the state is failing to fund the education their students are guaranteed. Two dozen WEA members and leaders packed the Washington Supreme Court hearing room in Olympia Oct. 24.

“My students are in overcrowded classrooms,” said Adam Aguilera, a Vancouver-area English teacher who attended the hearing.

In the original 2012 McCleary decision, the Court ruled the state was failing to amply fund K-12 basic education as required by the state Constitution. Since then, the Legislature has increased state funding for public schools but is still falling short of what the Constitution requires – and what students need. Even the increases approved earlier this year are phased in over the next four years.

“While the 2017 Legislature made progress, it’s clear to educators that the state is not amply funding K-12 basic education as required by the Washington Constitution and the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision,” said Kim Mead, WEA president. “The state’s school funding plan falls short on several counts, including funding for smaller class sizes in grades 4-12, competitive educator compensation and school construction.”

WEA members said they were frustrated by how little of the Court hearing focused on the needs of students.

“The Constitution says quality public education is a civil right for all students, regardless of race, color, caste or sex,” Mead said. “We need to keep our promise to Washington’s students and to amply fund the public education they deserve.”

Attorney Tom Ahearne, representing the coalition that filed the McCleary case a decade ago, asked the court to rule that the state still isn’t amply funding basic education and to order the Legislature to increase school funding during the supplemental budget session that starts in January. The Court currently is fining the state $100,000 a day for failing to comply with a previous order – which now totals more than $80,000,000.

It’s uncertain when the Supreme Court will make a decision, but it’s likely to be before the legislative session. Read more about the McCleary case here.

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