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Mark Gardner | Current Affairs, Education, Education Policy, Social Issues | December 21, 2012

Failing at Education Funding


The McCleary ruling, which established that the Washington legislature was not adequately funding public education, is popping up in the news again. When the ruling was first issued at the Washington State Supreme Court ordered the legislature to remedy the ed funding debacle, I worried that it was just lip service with no teeth

Recent news makes me optimistic that people are paying attention, though my worries still persist. The 2018 deadline is now a year closer than it was when first established, and it is hard to really point at "progress." The court has now said that it wants "yearly reports that 'demonstrate steady progress.'" (Sound familiar?) See the latter part of this article for a "clarification" about what this expectation from the courts might mean, and here's the link to the actual Supreme Court Order dated 20 December 2012. I particularly like this paragraph from page three of the court order:

In education, student progress is measured by yearly benchmarks according to essential academic goals and requirements. The State should expect no less of itself than of its students. Requiring the legislature to meet periodic benchmarks does not interfere with its prerogative to enact the reforms it believes best serve Washington's education system. To the contrary, legislative benchmarks help guide judicial review. We cannot wait until "graduation" in 2018 to determine if the State has met minimum constitutional standards. 

I've learned to not read the comments under any online news report about teachers, education or policy--there's no dialogue there, and too often the perpetuation of incorrect information. I used to whack-a-mole the trolls, but it was futile. Perhaps StoriesfromSchool can be a place for reasoned and thoughtful discourse about this issue.


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Why would you expect to find reasonable debate about education in online news reports? Most of the people who read the news don't even check up on their kids when they come home with schoolwork. After all, isn't it the teacher's job to do everything?

Things are changing. People are not as concerned about their children's education as they were in the past. When things go wrong with funding, etc, they harass teachers, instead of taking their concerns where they can really make an impact- at the governmental level.

Rob, those are my worries exactly. At least if people keep talking about it, it won't be forgotten. What can the court do? Not much, and there is some mention of this in the dissenting opinion at the end of the court order I've linked to.

I do wonder what will happen if the legislature does not do what the court wants by 2018? Will the ruling prove toothless?

This is a mess. The supreme court can't dictate to the legislature how to balance the budget or whether to raise taxes. If the legislature fails to meet these ambiguous benchmarks what could the supreme court do? They could fine the legislature or hold them in contempt. But who do they punnish? Every member of the senate or the house? Only those who were reelected?

I agree - I think the news coming out of Olympia has been reassuring.

There is no way around this issue - we have to find new revenue and we have to raise taxes. I'm disappointed that we still need 51% to cut taxes but 75% to raise them. Shouldn't a vote be a vote? Why does raising revenue need a vote plus another .25 vote?

We have been limping along without adequate resources for almost my whole career. An entire generation of students have graduated, split by those whose parents could supplement adequately and those whose parents couldn't. And we wonder why our numbers are what they are.

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