Writings and observations

WA: More for schools, really?

One line in the newly-released Washington Supreme Court case McCleary v. Washington gives pause to the immediate dismissal of its importance. We’ve been here before: Courts saying (in the Northwest, in Washington and elsewhere) that not enough is being spent on schools to meet constitutional mandates, and the legislature really ought to do it.

But without any hammer ever following up, and the legislature in whichever state is at issue shrugging its collective shoulder.

In McCleary, that line of critique at the state goes like this: “The State has failed to meet its duty under article IX, section 1 by consistently providing school districts with a level of resources that falls short of the actual costs of the basic education program.” We’ve seen similar strong verbiage before.

And it’s followed by acknowledgement (as earlier such decisions often have been, too) that the legislature has been fiddling around with education, trying to do new things. Weight has to be given to the legislature’s policy-setting role, and so on. In this decision: “We defer to the legislature’s chosen means of discharging its article IX, section 1 duty …”

The line that gives pause is this, following that last: “but the judiciary will retain jurisdiction over the case to help ensure progress in the State’s plan to fully implement education reforms by 2018. We direct the parties to provide further briefing to this court addressing the preferred method for retaining jurisdiction.”

In other words, the case isn’t over.

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