Late today, responding to the legislature's recent report on its underwhelming attempt to meet the Washington State Supreme Court's 2012 McCleary decision mandate to fully fund K-12 education, the Court ordered the state to appear in court in September to defend their inaction or be held in contempt. Among the punishments, the court would impose monetary sanctions, prohibit other expenditures, order specific K-12 funding legislation, order the sale of state property to fund K-12 education, invalidate education cuts to the budget, and prohibit any funding of an unconstitutional (i.e, underfunded) K-12 system.
The legislature did put about $1 billion extra into K-12 education this biennium. However, nonpartisan staff estimated that the state needed to put about $1.4 billion extra into K-12 over the biennium. (It's also important to note that about $500 million of the $1 billion came in one-time funds and transfers.)
The court documented the shortfall in a January 2014 warning—a follow-up to the original McCleary ruling—and also said that teacher compensation needed to bumped up by about $1.5 billion by 2018, increasing the demand on the state.
Overall, with the salary increases, this biennium's $400 million shortfall, and non-partisan estimates calling for for an additional $2 billion in K-12 funding for the next biennium and another $1.2 billion extra in the biennium after that—on top of the the roughly $15 billion per biennium status quo that's needed to cover existing costs—the state is looking at finding an extra $5 billion over the next four years.
Gov. Jay Inslee and house Democrats have proposed half a billion in tax cuts during the last two sessions to help put the state on track to meeting the 2018 deadline, but those plans failed in the Republican-dominated senate.
Read the entire stern order here.
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