Does today’s ruling on school funding really matter?

King County Judge John Erlick ruled today that the state of Washington does not fully fund education.

Read the AP story here.

Read the actual decision here.

Is this decision really a game-changer though? A generation has passed through Washington public schools since the Doran decision – the last landmark school funding lawsuit in 1977. Have we really made gains in school funding since then? Many folks would say no.

There are several other mechanisms  working on changing school funding.  The Legislature’s Quality Education Council is working on a solution. Advocacy groups such as the Partnership for Learning and the League of Education Voters are trying to find new ways to pay for public schools. Legislators have set a new deadline of 2018 for a reformed school funding system.

So we have deadlines and advocacy groups and experts and legal rulings … we’ve had these things in one form or another for many years. What’s missing?

13 thoughts on “Does today’s ruling on school funding really matter?

  1. What’s missing?

    A real “backbone” in our elected leadership for one.

    What you have mentioned above about their councils and their deadlines is simply just the same old lip service that has been applied to the education problem for years even decades.

    The “backbone” effect would be easy to implement by our elected leaders:

    #1 Use the backbone to not write crappy education legislation

    #2 Use the backbone to not pass crappy education legislation

    Very simple. If they would like a clearer definition of the word “crappy” then instead of forming ANOTHER insider, toady Olympia committee, how about just listening to what the school districts have to say? How about listening to what the school district citizen committees have to say?

    Will today’s ruling really matter?

    Yes and no.

    Yes, because this is a war of “inches”. This ruling is simply another “inch” in the right direction.

    No, because this is a war of “inches”. And by the time we actually arrive at the desired destination it will be way, way too late.

    Educational financial collapse in this state is imminent in the next 4 years. I honestly don’t see the inches getting us there in time. That does not mean there will not be reform or overhaul, it will just come from outside the court system.

  2. I think it is a “game changer” because the ruling states emphatically that the State is not meeting it’s obligations to K-12 education. Had the ruling been, “yeah, kinda sorta, I rule in favor of NEWS because they barely met a preponderance of evidence and I have to follow the law…”, then such a mediocre ruling would just add to the static.

    However, Judge Erlick was emphatic.

    Page 65 of the ruling…
    “Although this court has determined that the proper burden of proof for this analysis is “preponderance of the evidence,” this court is persuaded that Petitioners have proven even the higher standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” In this instance, this court is left with no doubt that under the State’s current financing system the State is failing in its constitutional duty to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within the borders of this
    State. This court is convinced that basic education is not being funded by a stable and dependable source of funds provided by the State, but rather continues to be supplemented by
    local funding (through special levies and otherwise) and non-State resources.”

    Judge Erlick left no ambiguity. That is the “game changer”. It gives the State no room to wiggle that the judge wasn’t clear.

    Kathryn Simpson

  3. Colleen,

    It is a war of inches, but the children of Washington State just gained a yard in this ruling. Many yards to go, but in a war of inches… this moved us from defense to offense. That fundamental shift is the game changer. Judge Erlick put the State on the defensive and school board directors on the offense for the first time in 30 years in this ‘game’.

    Btw, I hate referring to it as a ‘game’. Our children’s education should not be a ‘game’. But it is appropose analogy.

    (captcha words were “socking” and “state”… coincidence?)

  4. True Kathryn, but what was said here…

    The judge did not set a specific timeline for reform but urged the Legislature to proceed with real and measurable progress to establish the cost of basic education and find a stable way to pay for it.

    Indicates more bark than bite. The use of the word “urged” is not confidence building. Issuing the lunatics in Olympia an open ended invitation to set the rules and the timeline to fix this mess is financial insanity.

    Like it or not, the state of Education in 2018 will not look anything like it does now even if the legislature does not lift a finger between now and then. You and I both realize it is on a crash course well before then for many districts.

    Do you know what are the appeal options to this ruling? There is always an appeal whenever possible.

    Your right the label “game” is insulting, but let’s keeps calling a spade a spade.

    Or to be currently PC…”Legislation At Hope”. I’m just having some fun with you.

  5. I think the ruling was emphatic enough that the State will need to move up it’s timetable or start prioritizing better or both. 😉

    And I’m stealing the “Legislation At Hope” poke! Very funny!!

  6. Yes and no. It’s essentially an unfunded mandate. There are no penalties for non-compliance, and this isn’t the first (or last) opinion which establishes parameters for electeds. Besides, if the Legislature and State cry broke and try to raise taxes only to be met by yet another Tim Eyman‎ initiative, it does indeed boil down to yet another game.

    Besides, this isn’t just about money. Until there is a real commitment towards overhauling and/or improving many other aspects of the educational system beyond funding, there’s essentially no accountability beyond throwing money at it. Also, communities played a valuable and more direct role in their schools with levies. To
    what degree will this be diminished if pushed up to the State?

    Finally, we haven’t heard whether or not there will be an appeal. As with many things, time will tell…

  7. I was in the courtroom this morning, representing the League of Women Voters of WA which has been a member of NEWS since it was formed six years ago. For the first time since I moved here in 1995, I have hope for our children. This is an election year – everyone needs to ask the legislative candidates what they’re going to do to comply with the Constitution they take an oath to uphold.
    Catherine Ahl

  8. Another significant “game changer” in Judge Erlick’s decision was where he said that “Funding must be based as closely as reasonably practicable on the actual costs of providing such programs of basic education.”

    This would seem to indicate that he doesn’t consider apportionment constitutional and the State will need to come up with a model that more accurately reflects actual costs.

  9. It was a typo? “Untilities” ARE currently covered by state apportionment. 😉

    Kathryn Simpson
    (stuck in DC for the Blizzard of 2010)

  10. “This is an election year – everyone needs to ask the legislative candidates what they’re going to do to comply with the Constitution they take an oath to uphold.”

    Many of us have been working on educational issues in this state for decades, whether or not there is a Constitutional opinion or election year. We’ll keep at it.

  11. Catherine,

    I didn’t see your comment until just now. It must have been in the moderation holding queue.

    Thank you for all you have done to support public education. Did you attend the post-decision briefing today?

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