After years of the state legislature grappling with a court mandate to fully fund basic education, GOP and Democratic leaders last legislative session came up with a solution that they said would fully meet their obligations—it involved a compromise to include the GOP levy swap plan to make homeowners in property-rich districts, like Seattle, pay more taxes.
The Washington State Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled that while legislators have "made significant progress," it wasn't enough, and would keep the state in contempt.
The court criticized lawmakers for postponing the constitutionally compliant salary model, "a critical part of meaningful reform," and not acting fast enough to meet the deadline of September 1, 2018, for all the parts of compliance.
"While the court can appreciate the political and budgetary challenges that may explain the state's decision to postpone full funding of the salary model, it cannot accept part compliance as full compliance," the court wrote in its strongly worded order released Wednesday. "We cannot erode that constitutional right by saying that the state is now 'close enough' to constitutional compliance. The goals have long been clear, the deadline has long been clear, and the meaning of 'amply fund' has long been clear."
In 2012, the Supreme Court ruling known as the McCleary decision declared that the state was not meeting its constitutional obligation to public school students by making school districts rely too heavily on local levies, rather than funding basic education directly from the state.
The McCleary compromise earlier this year had the state pour $7.3 billion in education over the next four years but left reforming salaries for teachers and administrators until the 2019-2020 school year.
Read the court's full 46-page order here.