In 2012, the Washington State Supreme Court found the state in deep debt to its educational budget, a ruling called the McLeary decision. The Legislature was directed to address the issue. By spring of 2015, nothing had been done, and fed up, the WSSC levied fines of $100,000 a day against the State Legislature in contempt of court until a budget agreement could be reached.
That was a year ago. In that year, more than $2 billion dollars have been allocated into a biannual budget for smaller class sizes, expanded kindergarten programs, and supplies and transportation, but that’s only a patch on the $15 billion that the courts ruled the schools were owed by the state.
The larger share of the required budget is still under contention. The court’s ruling was that the state has been relying on local school-tax levies and private donations to a degree that violates the Washington State Constitution. Relying on those sources is the primary cause of inequality between schools.
Currently, David Schumacher, state budget director, said that lawmakers will not finish the work required to correct this defect before this legislative session ends in mid-March. He predicts it to be addressed in the 2017 session, but defends the delay.
“We’re not waiting until then to get started,” Schumacher said on Thursday, January 21st. “Just because there are no public discussions, doesn’t mean we aren’t working on this.”
Schumaker also has said that he thinks deadline pressure will be needed to force the Legislature into difficult compromises. Currently, the ultimate deadline for the education budget is 2018. If the required budget is not reached until the last possible day, by then the Supreme Court’s fines will have mounted to $73 million dollars. Ultimately, however, that’s just the left hand paying the right, and doesn’t even touch the needs of Washington’s schools.