Just like everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die, everyone wants good schools but no one wants to pay for them. Local levies can't cover all the costs, and the state, which has a "paramount" Constitutional duty to provide "ample" school funding, is so enamored of anti-tax ideology it's telling the old and infirm to sink or swim. So what's ample? Whatever the state was providing in 1977 apparently wasn't, so a Thurston County judge and later the state Supreme Court told the legislature to kick it up. The latter ruled that basic education meant enabling Washington students to be competitors in the job market and the "marketplace of ideas." The ruling was later applied to special education as well.
A King County trial that starts today centers on the same Constitutional requirements. A Chimacum woman and her 15-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son are the lead plaintiffs (in a group that includes teachers unions and school districts, including Seattle's) in a lawsuit arguing that the state is not fulfilling its aforementioned duty. King County Judge John Erlick will decide the case, which seems likely to be appealed by the loser.
Cases like this are a good reminder that the maxim that judges should "just apply the law" are pretty meaningless in tough cases, and that paying attention in judicial elections--and having something substantive to pay attention to--is pretty meaningful.