Judge says state funding for public schools is insufficient
February 10, 2010
NEW — 1:03 p.m. Feb. 10, 2010
King County Superior Court Judge John Erlick ruled Feb. 4 that the state isn’t adequately funding public schools as required by the state constitution. He ordered the Legislature to determine the cost of giving a basic education to the state’s 1 million school children, and then pay for it.
“State funding is not ample, it is not stable, and it is not dependable,” he wrote in his decision, which followed a six-week trial in September and October.
Erlick did not specify how or when the Legislature should decide how much more money to give to schools. But the state must show “real and measurable progress,” he wrote.
The state could also appeal Erlick’s decision.
The Legislature did pass a bill last year, House Bill 2261, which would increase money for public schools by 2018, and it expanded the state’s definition of “basic” education.
The Washington Constitution sets funding basic education as the state’s “paramount duty.” The state’s definition of basic education was challenged in the 1970s by a similar lawsuit, which Erlick cited in his decision.
Snoqualmie Valley School District Superintendent Joel Aune commended the judge’s decision.
“It’s really good news for K-12 public schools. We’ve maintained for years that the state is not meeting its obligations to fund education,” Aune said. “We were really pleased to see the judge’s decision reinforced our belief in that respect.”
A recent letter from the Legislature discouraged the state from appealing the decision. Rep. Glenn Anderson, R-Fall City, signed the letter, something which Aune endorsed, saying an appeal would cost both sides money and delay necessary funding for schools.
Aune also said he hoped the judge’s decision would give legislators pause when considering education cuts.
“The governor’s budget is proposing another round of deep cuts to education and that budget proposal is 180 degrees contrary to the judge’s decision,” Aune said.