State Sen. Steve Litzow (R-41, Mercer Island), the chair of the senate's education committee, sent a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee today calling for bicameral, bipartisan talks to get cracking on K-12 funding per the Washington State Supreme Court's recent 8-1 warning that the state was not on track to meet the court's earlier McCleary mandate to fully fund K-12 education by 2018. The court has given the legislature until April 30 to submit a plan.
Litzow's sensible letter comes just a day after he pushed off-point education reform bills in his committee (and check the PubliCola record on this, we've actually been on the Republican reform side of this debate; here's just one example of Josh's Arne Duncan cheerleading). But the fact is: the funding questions are more pressing. And the legislature has passed a batch of reform bills already.
Litzow's letter also comes just a day after his own conservative caucus mate, Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-6, Spokane), threw a Twitter tantrum saying the court had overstepped its authority.
Litzow's letter, however, acknowledges the court's "jurisdiction."
Writing deferentially to the court, Litzow's letter says: "Recently as part of its continuing jurisdiction, the state Supreme Court issued another order ... requesting that the legislature provide a plan by April 30 ... I believe we can all agree that we do not want to fall back into the habits of the past 10 years that led to the Supreme Court order in the first place."
Jolt has heard that behind the scenes, Sen. Litzow has been right there with his colleague Baumgartner mocking the court around the halls of the legislature. So, we're skeptical about his intentions.
But it's an important letter. And taken at face value, it's a positive turn of events (or a sop to Litzow's liberal-y Microsoft suburban district.)
Litzow's letter also follows a pair of letters he received yesterday from state Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-34, Maury Island), the Democratic senate minority leader, and state Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe (D-1, Bothell), the ranking Democrat on the education committee, saying a delay in meeting the court's order would be "both unconscionable and unconstitutional" and urging him to set up a regular work group to meet the court's mandate to come up with a funding plan by April 30.
In a joint satement, Nelson and McAuliffe praised Litzow for getting on board:
We’re very glad that Sen. Litzow has responded to our letters dated January 15th and agrees that a process is necessary, involving all four caucuses and the governor’s office, over how we can address our paramount duty of fully funding education for all of our students. The Supreme Court has given us clear and detailed instructions for what they expect to see from us moving forward and we look forward to working with both parties and both chambers to meet their expectations by April 30th. Our children rely on us to take action and they cannot afford to wait another year for us to act. It’s about the kids not the courts.