State Supreme Court says that, despite progress, Legislature still not meeting education funding targets

The state Supreme Court, in an order released today, faulted lawmakers for failing to make adequate progress on meeting the Court’s school funding mandate. (Justice Johnson is filing a dissent from the majority opinion.) The accompanying press release acknowledge legislative progress.

The majority Order, signed by eight of the nine justices, acknowledges that “meaningful steps were taken in the 2013 legislative session to address the constitutional imperative of amply providing for basic education.”
The court expressed concern, however, that the State is “not on target to implement ESHB 2261 and SHB 2776 by the 2017-18 school year.”  The Order observes that the $982 million budget for education in 2013-15 represents only a 6.7% increase over the current constitutionally inadequate level of funding and falls well short of the needs estimated by the legislature’s Joint Task Force on Education Funding.
The Court’s decision comes as no surprise. The funding targets are ambitious. The substantial boost in funding this session, while impressive, still leaves the state with a lot of catching up to do in the next few years. Judicial impatience is underscored in the order:
The legislature is embarking on a short session in 2014, where it has an opportunity to take a significant step forward. We are aware that OSPI has submitted a supplemental budget request of approximately $544 million, with $461 million addressing basic education funding. The need for immediate action could not be more apparent. Conversely, failing to act would send a strong message about the State’s good faith commitment toward fulfilling its constitutional promise.
Substantial new funding in the short session is unlikely. Key legislators already question the need for any supplemental budget. After last year’s lengthy budget impasse, legislators are likely to recognize an impasse early and avoid an election-year showdown. Perhaps anticipating that, the court wants an early progress report:
…the State shall submit, no later than 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…the pace of progress must quicken.
The Olympian points out the the order also emphasized teacher compensation.

The court called it “deeply troubling” that the Legislature’s report evaluating its own progress didn’t address state funding for teacher and administrator salaries.

The teachers’ union was a prominent member of the coalition that brought McCleary to the court.