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

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

  1. Look I hate rent seekers. College is a racket. Yes, there are good people who are college professors. There are lawyers, STEM’s, and all around smart people who could make more in private industry, but who work in colleges because that’s what they want to do. But that doesn’t obviate the fact that you have large numbers of rent seekers making a ton of money doing no good at all. In fact, doing harm, since many of them are PC, left-wing freaks. People need to ask themselves, education for what? We’re sending out kids to college and spending thousands of $$$ because.. why? Tuition goes up year after year because….why?

  2. PCS, school should be local and it dosne’t take a PhD to teach a fork lift driver for 12 wasted years. There’s education and then there’s education.

    A H.S. diploma and a teaching credential should be all that is necessary for taxpayer funded school.

    And pay should be market based. Only the amount necessary to attract any teacher willing to get a good job done. Not one penny more.

    1. John – why the teaching credential? I can tell you as someone who had a teaching credential that I only took 2 classes in ‘teacher school’ that helped me in the classroom. A high school diploma does not mean that you know more than the smartest kid in your class. That is the downside to teaching. If the kids know more than you, you are toast.

  3. AY, I’m not going to do your research for you. You have the right to know or not know whatever you want. I presented the A$400K base pay of a state college president earlier on this page. You can estimate or research the “actual” total compensation package. A local city manager here took annual “fact-finding” trips to Paris, Vienna and Geneva. Price those out. “Comparable pay” means it’s comparable. What is comparable to $400k in your mind? The PIO’s present no salary, or bare minimum starting salaries, because the truth is embarrassing. Police and firemen get 100% of pay in retirement with massive cost of living adjustments and comprehensive benefits at 20 years of service in many areas. It’s absolute corruption because absolute power corrupts absolutely and CA is absolutely a collectivist, one-party state as Illinois et al. may be.

    The largest American, “evil capitalist” organization is CALPERS. It corruptly throws its weight around and manipulates markets…but who cares? Maybe Martha Stewart. I’m just sayin’.

    What is “comparable pay” to that presented in the article below, teacher, police, fire? From L.A. NOW:

    L.A. NOW
    Southern California — this just in
    $594,000 a year? Some police chief salaries boosted with ‘cashouts’

    Internet VA Starting/Hiring Salaries:

    Nurse Practitioner (Urology Cancer Navigator)

    O UR MISSION: To fulfill President Lincoln’s promise – “To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan” – by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s Veterans. NOTE: Applicant’s education and length of nursing practice (experience) will be consider

    Salary: $75,300.00 – $127,179.00 / Per Year
    Series & Grade: VN-0610-00/00
    Location(s): San Antonio, Texas
    Open Period: 9/10/2014 to 9/25/2014
    Announcement Number: VHA-671-14-YG-1210190-BU

  4. Thomas Jefferson told us to keep public school control local. Thomas Jefferson told us to restrain the profiteers and commissars, and terminate the Department of Education, Trustees, Presidents, Superintendents, Teachers Unions and all other obstacles to the appropriate, academically effective, cost-effective, affordable, fundamental, practical, pragmatic and local education of our children, with, by grade, diminishing taxpayer support.

    “…a dereliction of them to themselves.”

    Thomas Jefferson –

    “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

  5. Annie, My knowledge, somewhat limited I must admit, is more in line with yours. I was encouraged to apply at a nearby charter school. I have a BFA with none of the teaching courses. I’ve successfully taught stuff that I know to a select group, but K-12 aren’t part of that group.

  6. Paul, sounds fair to me. However, I think that a low salary for entry level teachers might be counter productive. If the salary is too low, the teacher might quit b/c she can’t make ends meet. Talented teachers need an incentive to stay. An inability to pay the rent, buy food and school supplies, and repay the school loan is an incentive to find a job that’s more lucrative. Are there many k-12 teachers with a PhD? Most seem to have, or are working for, a Masters.

  7. Bettykath,

    Depending on the school district and the tax base some teachers do well….. Most however do good to make with just a bachelors degree 40 to 50k.

    Again, Paul makes a statement without any proof. In these so called private schools, they make even less and don’t have to have a teaching certificate… Go figure.

    1. Salary schedules are public information and if you know what the teacher’s education and time in service, you can know what they make. Depending on the district depends starting salaries are.

      Arne Duncan, current Secretary of Education, got his experience teaching at a private school. However, this discussion is not about private schools or charter schools. A teaching certificate is no guarantee of a person being a quality teacher. There are few college teachers that have teaching certificates.

  8. Paul, Voter id isn’t the answer. This is a town that doesn’t really know how to administer an election. You start by rules about who can vote, e.g. residency and by having prospective voters sign up, this is usually called registering to vote. In a community that has a number of people who don’t qualify, e.g. residency, establish a deadline for registration that allows enough for vetting the registrants. If they want on-the-spot registration, such voters should use the provisional ballot that will be counted, or not, after the vetting.

    In NYS we have to sign in and our signature should match the signature on file. I’ve voted in every election, by absentee ballot when I was caring for my dad in another state, and I’ve never been asked for id. I voted in NC but don’t remember the process. (About the only thing I remember is that two men accompanied their wives into the voting booth. Men went in first, alone, then invited their wives to join them for her ballot.) If the clerk at the poll has any question about the validity of the signature, the person should cast a provisional ballot.

    Suing the voters for participating in an election? What a joke. These folks have been on the mountain too long.

    1. bettykath – since salary is based on the schedule for regular public school districts, teachers accummulate credit hours to move up the ladder. There are a fair amount of senior teachers with Ph.Ds or enough hours to qualify for a Ph.D. Usually though it is an Ed. D.

  9. $150,000 for a teacher! WHERE? A teacher in her 2nd or 3rd year nearly quit last year b/c of administrative b.s. She is in a new school that is much better but she’s contemplating a new job. She spends many hours outside of the classroom preparing for the class work. She really loves teaching the kids but some of the conditions under which she works are difficult. She can earn a lot more money at the other job she has been offered. She has told me of other talented teachers who have quit the profession for various reasons, most of which are administrative b.s., crowded classrooms, low pay and all the extra time outside of school hours needed to do a good job – mostly morale issues. When a high percentage of teachers have the same complaints, a union helps each of them have enough power to force changes.

    The comparison of a state university with K-12 is a false comparison.

    1. bettykath – teacher salaries are based on a salary schedule. Depending on your education and years of service, depends your salary. A third year teacher would be pretty close to the bottom of the pile. A 30 year veteran with a Ph.D would be at the top.

  10. Yep. We can only hope that Mary Burke wins or that the John Doe investigation turns up enought to indict him. The injunction that stopped the investigation was lifted by a three judge panel on the 9th.

  11. Annie


    P.S. Any moron realizes those without state IDs don’t have driver licenses. I have been to a few DMVs in my lifetime. They are located in uncongested and more remote areas. How in the hell are people supposed to get there?

    WI is hereby declared fascist country! If this situation stands, the election should be nullified by the courts.

  12. doc,
    anything Mr. Walker and his friends can control to make sure likely democratic voters will not be able to vote, they will do.

  13. Annie

    I was giving WI a little credit about the policy change that enabled people to get truly ‘free’ IDs. I have just been told that some WI DMVs will only be open for three days between now and the election. If this information is correct, to quote our favorite hater of the duopoly, this is horseshit. Do you know anything about this?

  14. John,

    What’s your proof? Blanket ascertations again…. Really a nurse makes 150k where? Immigrant takes a job, show me… You proof…. Has anyone ever told you that your ears are for listening? I know nurses with a phd… She’d love to make 100k but she doesn’t give shots…. So I need proof…

  15. Wait a minute. You’re not doing $150k? Seriously? That’s a ruse, isn’t it?

    Wait a minute. Nurses at the VA make $150k. And they know how to give a shot. How about that. Don’t the Teamsters at UPS.

    What if illegal aliens learned how to give a shot and drive a truck?

    Is anything just plain a– out of control?

    One makes tons of money based on the union one pays dues to.


    At the VA, a collectivist who can read and give a shot makes $150K+.

    And you don’t? I don’t believe you for a second.

    Oh, I get it. You’re making fun of me. You’re funny. OK.

    The collectivists have taken over the institutions.

    The inmates have taken over the asylum.

  16. rcocean, let’s start with an inquiry in the Chicago School District. You can post the entire rate chart. 9 months work, sick leave, annual leave, medical, dental, vision, defined benefit retirement, 401k, disability coverage, bonuses, proficiency, air condition/heat classrooms, limited class size, 4-6 periods, teaching assistants, etc.

    From there we can move to New York.

    Meanwhile you might impeach this evidence, counselor:

    ” …a salary of $400,000 for the new president of San Diego State, Elliot Hirshman — $350,000 in state funds and $50,000 from the campus’s foundation…” USA Today

    The man does nothing. He certainly does not minimize the damage to the taxpayer, the citizen, the sovereign. He may as well work for the King. Who is the King, by the way, in the “dictatorship of the proletariat.” The man has no goal to achieve. Think about it. At a Ford plant, the manager has to roll units off the line, 50 an hour. How many BS’s, MBA’s and PhD’s does this political appointee and functionless, living redundancy have to produce per hour, with public scrutiny, by the way…who buys this man’s product directly…who knows what his product is? We all know what a Ford is.

    When you’re done with N.Y. you can try L.A. They strike once a month out there…that’s just a guess.

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