In a decision that could have widespread ramifications on the future of education funding, Washington's highest court ruled this morning that the state is not meeting its constitutional obligation to pay for basic education.
Following an eight-week long bench trial, the state Supreme Court concluded that the K-12 funding system is broken and is asking the Legislature to fix the problem.
The case decided by the court was McCleary v. Washington and centered on Article IX, Section 1 of the state constitution, which has been debated for many years. It says that "it is the paramount duty of the State to amply provide for the education of all children within its borders." The critical Article IX also states: "The Legislature must develop a basic education program geared toward delivering the constitutionally required education, and it must fully fund that program through regular and dependable tax sources."
Today's ruling is the culmination of a case that germinated in 2007 when a coalition of parents -- including Matt and Stephanie McCleary, who worked for the Chimacum School District -- organizations got together and sued the state, arguing that Washington was not meeting its constitutional responsibilities.
In February 2010, King Couny Superior Court Judge John Erlick agreed with the plaintiffs. But the state appealed the decision, saying Erlick had gone beyond a previous high court ruling on this issue in 1978.
Today's decision, rendered in an 85-page opinion, essentially gives the Legislature until 2018 to make the necessary reforms. Lawmakers begin the 60-day session next Monday, where they are expected to spend virtually all of their time on the nearly $1 billion budget shortfall.