Former Govs. Spellman and Gregoire Urge Supreme Court to Exercise Restraint, Caution

In today’s Seattle Times, John Spellman and Chris Gregoire offer timely counsel to the state Supreme Court ahead of tomorrow’s hearing addressing whether the court should hold the Legislature in contempt for failing to make adequate progress on education funding. Republican Spellman served as governor from 1981-1985; Gregoire served from 2005-2013.

The pair note that they joined a brief signed by all five living former governors suggesting that tomorrow’s hearing be postponed. 

…the five governors differ with the court’s more recent order threatening to find the Legislature in contempt for not adopting a plan during its 2014 session for completely funding basic education by that deadline. A Supreme Court hearing is scheduled to take place on Wednesday.

Contempt proceedings could lead to a constitutional showdown between coequal branches of state government and would shift the focus from where it belongs — the education of Washington’s students.

Emily provided background on the issue last week. I wrote about it in this June column.

In urging the court to give lawmakers time to work out an effective funding plan, Spellman and Gregoire nicely summarize the complexities facing the legislature. 

More funding must lead to improved educational outcomes for our students. Our state needs progress on graduation standards, career education, teacher preparation and evaluation, technology investments, and accountability measures to ensure that additional funding is being used wisely to benefit students.

 

Legislators are ultimately accountable to the public. They understand that their decisions are subject to public scrutiny. Those arguing that new revenues are the only answer should remember that voters recently have rejected new taxes for education and overturned general-fund tax increases imposed in Olympia.

 

Similarly, cutting critical programs to siphon dollars to education can’t be the answer.

As they conclude, it’s “premature and counterproductive” to consider finding lawmakers in contempt for failing to meet a deadline that’s four years off.

Time to dial down the drama.