Posted by: sweeneyblog | March 3, 2014

Constitutional Crisis Builds Over Education

Capital Beat

Weekly Legislative Coverage

With only a few days left in the session, the pressure is on over education. The battlelines are pretty clear, the state legislature has been ordered by the supreme court to fund education. In their McCleary decision, the Supreme Court laid out specifically what had to be funded and that shifting the burden onto local municipalities was unfair.

Some legislators, such as Reps. Vincent Buys and Jason Overstreet, objected that the Supreme Court telling them exactly what to fund was “a constitutional crisis” and the justices are  “violating the very Constitution every member of the court has sworn, by oath, to uphold. It is a crisis in which you will not prevail.” Tough talk, but will they back it up with action?

Ranker debates the budget in committee

Ranker debates the budget

I spoke with Sen. Kevin Ranker about whether we will see legislators hauled away in handcuffs after this session. “Maybe not handcuffs, but if the Republicans don’t step up to their responsibility and fund our schools, then I could see a conflict happening. Look, if we can’t figure out how to fund education in this state, we deserve what is coming to us.”

The education proposal from the Senate Democrats involves closing tax giveaways to the oil and coal industry which should generate around $138 million, specifically for school supplies and cost of living increases for teachers. Ranker describes the budget as “a very thoughtful budget, but obviously it does not go far enough. Not nearly far enough.”

Ranker also pointed out that the big bill will be in the next session. “Next year, we will need to invest two billion into education in our state to meet the needs of our children, and unless we get realistic with ourselves and have a bold, new conversation about revenue. Unless that happens, we will be failing our next generation. It is either that or we wipe out every social program, every mental health program in the state because that’s what it would take.”

As the final day of session approaches (March 13th), we will see in the next week how the legislature deals with this growing crisis.



  1. Riley,

    A good post, but I hope that you keep asking to see the Republican plan for funding education. Even without pay increases for teachers, current funding will not even meet the classroom needs for students in WA state.

    Thank you for all you do. We need more good reporters who help keep the public informed.

    Tom Gilmore

  2. Riley, I see that the Democratic plan included $138million. If next year involves $2B, why is this years’ proposal so paltry? What was the Republican plan (I know I should know this, but I don’t have time today for the research). And how does the NCLB debacle fit into all of this.

    This is more than a Constitutional crisis, it is a societal crisis in Washington state. When we fail to fund our public educational institutions, the Constitution, indeed all our guiding principles, are at their weakest.

  3. More funding for our public school system (if done as in the past) is throwing good money down a rat hole. Let’s privatize the system with vouchers and get some “good” results for our dollars for a change.

    • Wayne,

      I would be interested in knowing the basis for your statement that we throw money down a rat hole by funding public education and for that reason we ought to privatize our education (in other words to turn it into a commodity). The only study that I am aware of and that evaluated the privatization effort (namely charter schools) gave a very poor report card to such privatization efforts.

      I am speaking of the 2009 CREDO report out of Stanford University which you can read here:

      CREDO found that 17 percent of charter school students performed better than their public school counterparts, 46 percent no better and 37 percent worse. A 17% success rate is hardly a result on which charter school proponents should hang their hats.

      Can you cite some sources, i.e. studies, for your contentions as I would be interested in reading them.

  4. Three words: “Corporate Income Tax”

    Something more substantial than the current BOT. The state also has to unleash growth in all it’s communities by recruiting or developing high tech industry and science in any county where there is interest and/or a university.

  5. […] Funding: Once again, the legislature did not fulfill its constitutional responsibility to fund education. The state Supreme Court said that we need to find five billion dollars for basic […]

  6. […] Funding: Ericksen may brag about the token  increases to education funding, far short of the mandate from the state Supreme Court. This year, the legislature rummaged around in the couch cushions and found some pocket change (a […]

  7. […] Our state supreme court, for the first time in history, held our legislature in contempt for failing to fully fund education. Frequent reader of this blog knew this was coming after the state senate Republicans blocked the Democratic education bills that closed tax giveaways to fund our schools. […]

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