Washington Supreme Court Holds State Of Washington In Contempt For Legislature Failing To Provide Action Plan In Funding Education

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

gavel2washington-flag-sealIn an unusual and historically unprecedented outcome, Washington’s Supreme Court held the state in contempt for the legislature failing to provide a clear plan in funding public education by the school year 2017-18 pursuant to the McCleary ruling the court handed down in January of 2012.

According to documents the court in McCleary v. State, 173 Wn.2d 477, 269 P.3d 227 (2012) unanimously affirmed a declaratory judgment of the King County Superior Court finding that the state is not meeting its “paramount duty … to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders” under Article IX Section 1 of the state constitution. The court initially deferred to the legislature’s chosen means of discharging its constitutional duty, but retained jurisdiction over the case to monitor the State’s progress in implementing by 2018 the reforms that the legislature had recently adopted. Pursuant to its retention of jurisdiction, the court has called for periodic reports from the State on its progress. Following the State’s first report in 2012, the court issued an order directing the State to lay out its plan “in sufficient detail to allow progress to be measured according to periodic benchmarks between then and 2014.

The legislature failed to meet the courts demands for production of evidence of progress by the legislature and the court then found the state in contempt. The issue has brought up certainly the notion of separation of powers, but the possibility of sanctions has many in the legislature motivated to now act.

The McCleary decision derives from a rather complex lawsuit against the state on behalf of the McCLeary family and others who initiated an action against the state for inadequate education provided to children and thus violating the constitutional requirement for the state to provide basic K-12 education as a paramount issue.

Article IX Section 1 of the Washington Constitution reads:

SECTION 1 PREAMBLE. It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.

The court previously interpreted the preamble as being a core element of the constitution and not merely a formality. The history behind the case spans forty years. To digest, the Seattle School District suffered a great financial blow in 1972 when a double levy failed and the district was forced to take drastic action. The district sued the state for creating the conditions that required levies to fund basic operating expenses and shifting the burden to the local level. The State Supreme Court ruled in favor of the district and the legislature enacted several bills that among other issues returned funding sources back to the state with a ten percent cap on financing derived from levies. As costs for this mounted, the legislature provided waivers to the ten percent cap and some districts then became reliant on levies for operating costs; some caps were raised to thirty percent or more. Over time these and other reasons began to degrade the quality of education within the state. While the legislature provided for studies that recommended clear directions as to how the state could restore education quality levels, it became increasingly unwilling to provide the necessary funding. The liability began to grow with time as revenue sources for the state dwindled.

One study estimated the biennial funding requirement to be between two and four billion dollars. The legislature did not sufficiently act with legislation to provide this funding which ultimately resulted in Supreme Court action in 2012 with McCleary where the court interpreted that the State fully fund K-12 education.


In the Contempt Order it reads In 2013 the legislative session, the Joint Select Committee on Article IX Litigation issued a report on which the Court found that the State was not making sufficient progress to be on target to fully fund education reforms by the 2017-18 school year. Reiterating that the State had to show through immediate and concrete action that it was making real and measurable progress, the court issued an order in January 2014 directing the state to submit by April 30, 2014 a “complete plan for fully implementing its program of basic education for each school year between now and the 2017-18 school year,” including a “phase-in schedule for funding each of the components of basic education.”

The heat began to be turned up on the legislature when the Court ordered in June that the State appear before the court and show cause why it should not be held in contempt for violating the January order and why that if contempt is found that sanction or other relief requested by the plaintiffs in the case should not be granted.

During the show cause hearing on September third, the State admitted that it did not comply with the January order, but instead to provide the legislature with time during the 2015 budget session to develop and enact a play for fully funding K-12 by 2018.

The court held the State, but truly the Legislature, in contempt for failing to follow the lawful orders of the court. A mild constitutional issue resulted where some in the Legislature stated the court had no authority to usurp the separation of powers and had overstepped its bounds and entered into the procedures and politics of legislation. But the Court rejected this and stated that it “fulfilled its constitutional role to determine whether the State is violating constitutional commands, and having held that it is, the court has issued orders within its authority directing the State to remedy its violation, deferring to the legislature to determine the details.”

The court unanimously found the state in contempt of the January order but delayed imposing sanctions until after the 2015 legislative session where it would reconvene and review if sanctions would be imposed.

Options available to the Court to sanction the legislature or achieve compliance have been discussed and it is not clear as to what the Court could order. There has been speculation that the Court could declare tax exemptions unconstitutional or void specific budgetary allocations to force, at least fiscally, a sign that funding will be available by the McCleary deadline.

This certainly is proving to be an uncharted journey the government of Washington might find itself.

Video recording of the show cause hearing before the Washington Supreme Court is available HERE on TVW.

By Darren Smith


McCleary v. State
Washington State Constitution
Contempt Order, Supreme Court of Washington
Bellingham Herald

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

128 thoughts on “Washington Supreme Court Holds State Of Washington In Contempt For Legislature Failing To Provide Action Plan In Funding Education”

  1. PCS, when Ford gets done with its product, it’s on public display and available for inspection.

    Where are the “results;” the products of “public school?”

    25% Dropout
    50% Forklift Drivers
    20% Dental Assistants
    5% Professional

    Something like the above for Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, etc.?

    What product are we paying for.

    Why do we pay for super-qualified teacher that far exceed the students capacity and do correlate with their product.

    Since teachers are protected from competition, there should be no unions or contracts and pay should be at a level that attracts and retains; market price.

    Here’s an interesting newsflash on competition related to operations at IBM:

    Selected employees in IBM’s Global Technology Services strategic outsourcing group received a memo on Friday stating “that some managers and employees have not kept pace with acquiring the skills and expertise needed to address changing client needs, technology and market requirements.”


    1. John – so nobody from LA went to college? Some of these exit testing for h.s. came from firms like Motorola who found they were having to re-educate h.s. graduates that they had just hired.

      You are on the wrong track here though. One should never assume that you are looking as students as products, because when you do, then you have to realize some products get broken or there are the occasional flaws in the manufacturing process. For a long time, we thought of our schools as education factories. When you do that, it is all numbers not necessarily quality that counts. Everyone but the students gets some blame in this.

    1. That opinion article is all smoke and mirrors. Wow, the Koch Bros are pushing charter schools. Big surprise, so is Arne Duncan, Sec of Education. So is Barack Obama, President of the United States. Lots of people write lots of legislation. Obamacare was written by hacks and not legislators, It was certainly not written by anyone supporting the Koch Bros.

  2. PCS, That they “don’t do well” is an excuse. Excuses are like smiles, everybody’s got one. Unacceptable. You snooze, you lose. Struggle and adapt. Because “some students don’t do well,” we increase spending? Is it incumbent on the taxpayer to pay endlessly for uneducable students? Is there no limit to how much money is spent?

    Costs must be cut. Teachers eliminated. Automated curricula established. Ridiculous salaries drastically reduced and non-degreed teaching assistants employed.

    Lectures can be obtained through a CD very efficiently. Teacher assistants without BA’s or PhD’s can assist and tutor, to some degree. Some assistance can be “virtual.”

    If they don’t do well, they shouldn’t be in school, they should just go get some OJT on the forklift.

    Thomas Jefferson indicated that “talented” students should be assisted and he talked about keeping education local and efficient. At some point, public education is ineffective and an exercise in futility.

    To much is spent. Most of it is waste. The limit must be imposed by budget limitations.

    It is the students duty and/or problem to take maximum advantage of whatever is available according to limited budgets.

    Abraham Lincoln learned at home by the fireside, right?

    The burden of learning is on the student, not the taxpayer.

    People take advantage of the “deep pockets” of the taxpayer and lose their incentive to succeed because, who cares, it’s all free.

    Students would behave much more acceptably if their parents paid tuition and supervised their “learning process.”

    A basic, pragmatic, inexpensive education should be provided by the taxpayer, not a Cadillac version that can be accessed multiple times at the leisure, convenience and indulgence of the “student.”

    Unions and contracts have no place.

    The burden of learning is on the student, not the taxpayer.

    1. John – automated curricula is one size fits all education. So, who gets to decide what goes in the one size?

  3. AY, Since public school is not subject to competition, it must be highly regulated and not unionized. The government should not be a party to union contracts. Greedy, striking teachers unions artificially raise the cost of public school. No governmental workers should be represented by unions and they have no justification for job actions and strikes; they should be fired for such.

    You don’t pay teachers based on CPI or any other irrelevant criteria, you buy teachers at market prices, whatever the market will bear. The available teacher pool is reduced and prices for teachers artificially increased by imposing unnecessary educational requirements. Unions impose high “prerequisites” to squeeze high pay out of the “deep pockets” of taxpayers. Degrees and advanced degrees are not necessary for most public school. You don’t need a PhD to teach fork lift drivers. Look at a statistical analysis of the hiring of public school graduates. Start with a 25% dropout rate. Most of the rest barely make it.

    The higher the grade, the more the student should pay for his education, according to Thomas Jefferson. I agree. Talented students should obtain higher education and pay for it themselves as they qualify for private scholarships. The basic education intended by the Founders was pragmatic and rationally priced, not extremely expensive waste.

    Most of the curricula can be automated. The best teacher can make a one-time CD to be played repeatedly in classrooms nationwide and classrooms can go “virtual” in students’ homes reducing the numbers of teachers.

    The country does not need the Department of Education; “administration” in D.C., the entirety of education must be local:

    Thomas Jefferson –

    “…schools…so divided…will amount to a dereliction…to themselves.”

    “If twelve or fifteen hundred schools are to be placed under one general administration, an attention so divided will amount to a dereliction of them to themselves. It is surely better, then, to place each school at once under the care of those most interested in its conduct.” –Thomas Jefferson: Plan for Elementary Schools, 1817. ME 17:417

    1. John – having worked with ‘automated education’ I can go on at great length about the pitfalls. To simply the issues let me get it down to just one. Some students do not do well on automated education.

      I will agree with you that there is no need for a federal Department of Education or Sec. of Education. I think the job and the department should be abolished. It would save a lot of problems that schools are having.

  4. Paul C. Schulte: “Then I will assume it is idle chatter, smoke and mirrors. An attempt to make a point that wasn’t there to begin with.”

    Yes, that sums up our feelings about your comments, Paul C. S. (Assume whatever you’d like.)

  5. Dang john what’s the CPI in NYC? 100k won’t go very far….. How about Harlingen Texas… Teachers earn about 24k per year…. Bloomfield, MI about 60k……. Heck, I bet the teachers in the Bay Area of SFO do pretty well…. Your statements are without basis or logic…..

    In Texas…. The state has a base any other amount is paid by the school district…. I guess some folks want better teachers….. And to give them a substaniable level of living…. Is really not a bad ideal…..

  6. AY,

    I apologize. I saw them in California. I realize there are 50 states. You may not have seen public school parking lots or seen them in another state. Are you in New York? Here is a teacher pay projection, excluding benefits:

    “By May of 2018, the top salary for teachers with the maximum combination of experience and coursework on the salary schedule will be $119,472 per year.” Benefits may add $50k when you include 9 months work and 3 months off with Spring and Winter breaks. Nice, huh?

    Los Angeles Times say this about Napolitano:

    “The University of California has leased an Oakland residence for incoming system president Janet Napolitano for $9,950 a month, officials said Monday. Napolitano, the former U.S. secretary of Homeland Security and former governor of Arizona, will be provided the housing plus an annual $570,000 salary, $8,916 a year for car expenses and $142,500 for one-time relocation costs.”

    Here’s some more information on public school:

    Apparatchik Janet Napolitano, another professional politician who’s never worked a day in her life, was awarded the do-nothing position of President of the University of the One-Party-State California, talking about the appropriateness of taxing hard working Californians/Americans and giving their money to foreign citizens as tuition. Californians were forced to build a university system that 65% have never used, to pay for operation, maintenance, refurbishing and repair, ultimately, to educate foreign citizens and young adults from other states. This expenditure for foreigners and out-of-state students has been going on for decades.

    “This fall’s entering classes include a record number of out-of-state and foreign students, who pay much higher tuition than state residents and help offset the state’s failure to boost spending on higher education, Napolitano says.


    “Strikes are common for the poor, abused teachers and their underpaid union thug commissars:

    Wednesday, 17 September 2014 / TRUTH-OUT.ORG
    “Members of the United Auto Workers local 2865 – the union representing teaching assistants, associate instructors and undergraduate tutors across the University of California system – went on strike for two days last week over working conditions and intimidation.”


    All taxpayers are created equal in that very native Californian, Janet Napolitano’s twisted mind. It’s funny how collectivists are universal. They function the same in Beijing, D.C., Moscow, New York and California.
    It seems nepotism goes hand in hand with California communism which goes hand in hand with academia, apparently:

    “Janet Napolitano was born on November 29, 1957, in New York City, the daughter of Jane Marie (née Winer) and Leonard Michael Napolitano, who was the dean of the University of New Mexico School of Medicine.[8]”

    P.S. Who said communism didn’t pay?

    1. John – I am not a fan of Janet Napolitano, but before she became a political animal she was the chief research attorney for the law firm of Lewis and Roca in Phoenix. Lewis and Roca are powers in the Democratic Party in Arizona and so she was appointed Fed AG of Arizona by Clinton in a political payoff. Her Republican predecessor was forced out of office with the election of Clinton. After that she became Atty Gen of Arizona then Gov of Arizona.

  7. Paul,

    It in the heritage foundation book recently published…


    You have lots of anger issues to deal with….. I can almost see your spittle when you’re typing… Sad…

    But I’ve yet to know a public school parking lot for teachers full of range rovers and Mercedes….. Tell me where I can find them…

  8. AY, you must be a greedy, striking teacher union thug member as opposed to a taxpayer, paying the bills for all this largess. A strike a month, “comparable pay,” turning a 75 IQ into Einstein, Bangladeshi ethnic studies and high school “students” on the golf course??? Oh hell yeah!

    Let’s leave it at “you can’t handle the truth.”

    Pilots train in a fully automated “flight simulator,” right? Put a nationwide CD lecture in a big screen and call it public school. Sell the “bricks and mortar” properties and provide “virtual” public school.

    Put a bunch of perfumed teachers in the bottom of a coal mine for six months (it’s not simply that conditions are bad, it’s that they are bad for a lifetime) and they may begin the process of learning what constitutes the rationale for a strike.

    Taxpayers say Yugo, union members say Cadillac.

    Someone has to grab the bull by the horns and lay down the law.

    Elected officials represent the prima donna employees, not the taxpayers.

    Have you ever paid “comparable pay” for a gallon of milk in the grocery store?

    Indulgence is infinite.

    The inmates have taken over the asylum.

    P.S. It’s not in doubt that you can conduct ad hominem attacks, it’s in
    doubt whether you can refute a point.

    1. Then I will assume it is idle chatter, smoke and mirrors. An attempt to make a point that wasn’t there to begin with.

  9. John,

    Give me proof that teachers drive range rovers and Mercedes ….. I can name a number of schools where the children drive the latest manufactured vehicle mostly imports….

    But give me proof….

    I did read in the heritage propaganda manure something about the abuses you speak about….

  10. Anonymously Yours,

    Government work employs “public servants,” must be pragmatic and effective and is not intended to “enrich” or otherwise make employees wealthy. For wealth, workers must look to the private sector.

    Public school efficiencies are opposed by teachers unions. Waste in the curricula and automation of education among them. Courses can be taught by CD and over electronic media eliminating teachers. Teacher “assistants” can do much of the work. Classes can be conducted on computers in the home. While physical exercise is important, expensive and wasteful field trips and sports games involving few students at distant campuses must be eliminated. Class size must be increased. Some college classes have 300 students in class and most have 50.

    Teachers’ educational requirements only make it difficult to replace them. The advanced degree requirements do not assure that every student will obtain an education.
    The high prerequisites have no effect on the general public school student body that does not have commensurate capacity and motivation.
    L.A. dropout rate is 25%; what’s the “effective education” rate?
    Public schools graduates work as truck drivers, fork lift drivers, dental assistants, informal construction and other jobs that don’t require instruction by teachers with advanced degrees.
    Teachers have no legitimate hours, pay and conditions complaints sufficient to justify any strikes.

    Governmental employees must be hired and directed by elected officials.
    Union representation, contracts, strikes and “job actions” must be illegal.
    Workers must be purchased on the market at “market prices.”
    “Comparable pay” is entirely without logic and basis and artificially above “market prices.”
    Ronald Reagan fired ATC employees that failed to show up for work.

    Many teachers take the job because the union has made it clear that it will go after the “deep pockets” of the taxpayer. Requirements for degrees make the union members “irreplaceable.” Public school should be conducted with the “best” teachers that can be hired for the lowest wages. Public school should be the Yugo version, not the Cadillac.

    Rather than complaining and striking, teachers who have problems with the profession should find another.

    P.S. Why are school parking lots full of Mercedes Benz’s and Range Rovers?
    Why are public school administrators chauffeured in limos?
    Breakfast and lunch for students is not the taxpayer’s burden.

    P.P.S. Thomas Jefferson – Keep it local and pragmatic.

    “If twelve or fifteen hundred schools are to be placed under one general administration, an attention so divided will amount to a dereliction of them to themselves. It is surely better, then, to place each school at once under the care of those most interested in its conduct.”

    –Thomas Jefferson: Plan for Elementary Schools, 1817. ME 17:417

  11. John,

    Read your post. I don’t agree with most of it, but I am not going to debate something that has no logical conclusion. I will say Regean did it, and the number of private contractors doing the same work was more costly than in the employees had been kept….

  12. AY,

    Taxes must be reduced. Taxation is wasteful. Discretionary funds should be active in free markets.

    Taxes are ridiculously high. There are too many governmental departments and employees and their compensation is too high.

    Entire departments must be eliminated and compensation lowered in all categories including police, fire and teaching positions. The Dept. of Education has no rationale and is spoken against by Thomas Jefferson who directed that public education be local and efficient.

    Teacher prerequisites, duties and pay should be drastically reduced. Most students in public school do not graduate. Why do we tax for and provide the Cadillac education instead of the Yugo version? We extraordinarily educate people to become forklift drivers.

    Most teaching can be done with a HS diploma and a specialized teaching credential. Low wage assistants can be utilized more and automated lectures should be ubiquitous in the year of our Lord, 2014. Most of the work in the educational process is done by the student with the support of his family. Much learning can be done through the Internet and CD’s at home.

    Costs of public education are not justified and are simple greed on the part of teachers unions. Only “talented” students should go further as public school funding diminishes with the rise in grade levels. Automated education should have been implemented and costs cut massively decades ago. Teachers unions resist and obstruct the implementation of efficiencies that reduce teachers numbers and hours.

    Teachers unions have to be eliminated. It should be illegal for the taxpayer funded public school system to ever engage in a contract with any labor union. All governmental employees should work without unions or union contracts the same way the military employees do. Teachers have absolutely no wage, hours or working condition problems/concerns that should ever be addressed. Terrible and unacceptable working conditions were suffered by hard laborers in mines and factories. There were long hours at hard labor operating heavy machinery in dark and dirty conditions in extremely hot or cold temperatures without heating and air conditioning in deep dark mine shafts or factories with lines that ran the exact same tedious product 50 times an hour or worse. Teachers have absolutely no conditions that justify a strike.

    Teachers are worked to little and paid entirely too much. There are millions of unemployed who could obtain a teaching certificate and do a job good enough for the public school system for half the pay of current union teachers.
    And automation is extremely cost effective.

  13. Ostensibly, so I surmise, it is supposed to be not-possible to have a legal fiction upon a legal fiction.

    Alas, what is not supposed to be, in the manner of legal fictions, may actually be, in the manner of real facts and/or facts of science.

    What is supposed to happen when the legal fiction veil is pierced by real facts?

  14. Thomas Jefferson did not mandate perfection. The taxpayer’s burden is simple basic education. A person with the temperament to teach can do so, for the purposes of public education, with a H.S. diploma and a teaching credential. The taxpayer’s burden diminishes with increasing levels. The higher the level, the higher the requirement of talent. The advanced degree candidate must be able to assimilate the education.

    Teacher salaries should be set at the level required to attract teachers with a H.S. diploma and teaching credential.

    Teachers can be assisted by technical CD’s made on the national level.

    Most of the work of learning is done, or not, by the student with the assistance and moral support of his family.

    Statistically, most students fail to or barely graduate, can’t achieve high intellectual levels and are destined for common labor. That result cannot justify advanced degrees required of teachers and high levels of taxation for the purpose.

    Strikes and job actions must be illegal and participants removed and separated immediately.

    Strikes and job actions may have been appropriate when children were worked for very little pay, 16 hours a day in a coal mine at 100 degrees with no food, water or facilities with abusive bosses.

    Teachers have never worked in bad conditions.

    Teachers abuse the public school system and the taxpayers.

Comments are closed.