Wednesday, June 29, 2011

State's appeal of McCleary begins . . .

Yesterday was the first day of the state’s appeal in the NEWS lawsuit before the Washington State Supreme Court.  Here is a summary of the ruling in McCleary v. State where the judge ruled that the state was not meeting its constitutional requirement for funding public schools.  The state immediately appealed leading to yesterday's review by the state supreme court.

You can follow the happenings in a variety of places.  The Seattle Times summary, at the League of Education Voters blog, or at the NEWS webpage.  They all share similar information, but this paragraph from the NEWS report says it all to me.

Assistant State Attorney General Bill Clark maintained that the State is currently funding 100% of the costs of basic education. He said deep budget cuts in recent legislative sessions reducing teacher salaries, increasing class sizes and eliminating teacher training affect"enhancements" that do not fall under the constitutional definition of basic education.

I can't believe that they are attempting to make a case that teacher salaries are not part of basic education.  Yes I 728, not part of basic education, that supported enhanced teacher salaries has been cut, but the 1.9% on the base is directly from the state teacher salary schedule used to drive revenue to districts.  To me that is part of basic education.

Or this from the LEV blog.

The state’s lawyer repeatedly argued that local levies and other state non-basic education funding are backfilling “enhancements, like sports”, not basic education funding. “No basic education costs are borne by local school districts.” Come again? The reality is that local levies backfill basic education expenses that the state isn’t paying for, including teacher salaries, special education, curriculum, lights and heat, transportation, and more.

The last sentence is the truth.  We must backfill with levy funds all of those services that most of us would see as part of "basic education" funding.  I don't see how the state has much of a chance to win given our current reality and the diminishing resources per student, but I understand that justices tend to defer to other branches of government.  It angers me that time, money, and people resources are being used to fight what the lower court found as unconstitutional.  Perhaps those state officials responsible for the appeal believe that by delaying something magic will happen to make the solutions easier.  It isn't going to happen and it is a shame that it will may take a court ruling to force change as it did over 30 years ago.

The resolution to this case, regardless of the outcome, will have great impact on us and all school districts in the state.  Projections for the court rendering a verdict are around year's end. 

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