By Steve Guntli
Washington’s supreme court is fining the state government $100,000 a day for the legislature’s failure to fully fund public education.
The ruling is in keeping with the court’s McCleary decision of 2012, which determined the state was failing to meet its responsibilities to the people in funding education.
In January 2014 the court ordered the state to ensure education was fully funded no later than 2018. When the legislature failed to produce such a plan, the court found the state in contempt, but gave it until the 2015 legislative session to form a plan before imposing sanctions. A comprehensive plan failed to appear in time.
While the state has made strides in addressing class sizes, all-day kindergarten classes and funding for textbooks and supplies, local schools are still largely dependent on levies to pay for education costs. Under the McCleary decision, these costs should be the sole responsibility of the state.
The decision, which was unanimous among the nine supreme court justices, will force the state to pay $100,000 a day, effective immediately. The money will go toward funding education programs.
The court is also encouraging Governor Jay Inslee to convene a special session of the legislature to address the education plan. The court decreed it would suspend the fines while meetings of this commission were in session, but until then the penalties will remain in place.
On August 17, Inslee said he is encouraging lawmakers to address the ruling before the legislature is convened for a special session. Inslee said he’s pushing for lawmakers to meet “on a daily basis” until a plan can be proposed and quickly passed in special session.
Some lawmakers are already venting their frustration about the ruling. One representative, Matt Manweller, a Republican from Ellensburg, took to Twitter to call for impeachment of the Supreme Court justices.