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Spin Control

Posts tagged: McCleary decision

Court asked not to sanction Lege over school funding

OLYMPIA – The Supreme Court should not go down a “slippery slope” and punish the Legislature because it didn’t come up with a complete plan earlier this year to improve public schools, the state attorney general’s office said.

Although the public education is the state’s “paramount” duty, it is not the only duty, and the Legislature still has to pay for programs for public health, safety and welfare, Attorney General Bob Ferguson and a group of senior assistants said this week in their last written argument before all sides in the case appear before the state’s highest court next Wednesday. . .

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Sunday Spin2: Courting contempt

OLYMPIA — The state Supreme Court’s order for the Legislature to show up at the Temple of Justice on the first week of September and explain why it shouldn’t be held in contempt is prompting some interesting speculation around the Capitol Campus.

For example, the court’s order actually is for “the state” to show up, but it would be difficult to fit the 6 million-plus residents into the smallish courtroom, and it’s clear from the rest of the order that the court is really just peeved at the Legislature. All 147 legislators wouldn’t fit in the courtroom, and even if they could, there’s no way the court would want to hear from each one. . . 

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McCleary attorney pans Legislature’s ed report

OLYMPIA – Legislators’ recent report on how they will improve public education is so lousy they should be held in contempt, plaintiffs in the landmark case over school funding told the state Supreme Court. Maybe the court should levy fines, take control of the budget or close down schools until the legislators comply, their attorney suggested.

 The report by a special committee, submitted late last month, ignores previous court orders to provide detailed plans and offers excuses similar to a child telling a teacher “the dog ate my homework,” attorney Thomas Ahearne wrote in a formal response filed this week.

“This Court must decide whether court orders really matter,” he said.

Rep. Susan Fagan, a co-chairwoman for joint select committee on meeting what’s generally known as the McCleary decision, said the tone of Ahearne’s response was disappointing but probably not aimed at the court. . . 

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To see the plaintiff's latest response in the McCleary case, click here.

 

2015 critical year for school reform, panel says

OLYMPIA – The Legislature needs to pick up the pace at coming up with more money to improve the state's schools, a special committee is telling the state Supreme Court in a report due Wednesday.

Although it may not have done as much for schools in the past session as some may have wanted, a joint legislative committee said the Legislature did pass some improvements during the short session, such as increasing the number of credits needed for high school graduation in 2019, showing consensus is possible.

The real test will come next year, the panel concluded in its report. It asked the court give “deep consideration” to the improvements made so far and “recognize that 2015 is the next and most critical year for the Legislature to reach the grand agreement needed.”

That agreement could mean as much as $3.5 billion more for public schools between 2015 and 2019.

The Legislature is under a 2012 order from the court to improve schools, and essentially put money behind its past promises for education reform. Last year the court ordered the Legislature to provide it with a report by April 30 on how it will meet those goals. On Tuesday, with one day to spare, the Joint Select Committee on Article IX Litigation adopted a 58-page report which is primarily a summary of actions taken since 2009 and a recap of education bills that did or didn’t pass in the 2014 session. It includes extensive appendices for the court that explain the state’s two-year budget process and how it pays for basic education.

Article IX is the section of the state Constitution that says it is “the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.”

The report offers little insight into what the Legislature might do next year. As Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah, said after the meeting, the committee can’t commit a future Legislature to any particular action.

“Coming up with the plan is not within the jurisdiction of this committee,” Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, said.

The question of how to pay for better schools likely will be a source of contention in 2015, as it has been for years. Magendanz said the state should cover the cost of school improvements, as its paramount duty, before spending money on anything else, and only consider tax increases for other programs if what’s left of the existing revenue isn’t enough.

“We also have taxpayers to think about,” Rep. Susan Fagan, R-Pullman, said. 

Inslee: Do more hard things. GOP: Be more specific.

OLYMPIAWashington should raise its minimum wage, spend more on schools and highways, raise teacher salaries and do something about climate change, Gov. Jay Inslee said Tuesday.

“We have done hard things. And we can do more,” the Democratic governor told a joint legislative session in his annual state of the state address.

Legislative Republicans and a Democrat who joined them to form the Senates ruling coalition were quick to criticize the speech as long on ideas but short on specifics. . . 

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Lege panel to court: We’re spending $982 million more on schools

Although the Legislature needed two special sessions to agree to a budget, in large part because of disagreements over how much to spend on public schools, a special legislative committee needed only about six minutes Tuesday to tell the state Supreme Court that budget is meeting a mandate to adequately fund education.

With only three members in the room and the remainder connected by telephone, the Joint Select Committee on Article IX Litigation unanimously approved a report that listed four major increases in state money going to school districts over the next two years.

  • $374 million extra for materials, supplies and operating costs
  • $131.7 million extra for transportation costs
  • $103.6 million extra for smaller kindergarten and Grade 1 classes in high poverty schools
  • $90 million extra for all-day kindergarten.

It's part of a total increase of $982 million to be spent on public schools in the 2013-15 biennium. . .

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Documents:

Revenue forecast: “The Realm of OK”

The council gets the budget outlook. From left, Marty Brown, Ross Hunter, Ed Orcutt and Steve Lerch.

OLYMPIA — While the map may say this is the state of Washington, a revenue forecast that is essentially no better or worse than February puts us “in the Realm of OK.”

That was state Budget Director Marty Brown's take on the economic and revenue outlook for the rest of this fiscal biennium and the next, which has a net increase of $156 million out of $30 billion through the end of next June, and up about $197 billion for the two years after that.

After a string of down forecasts, a little blip up might be considered great news if there were less uncertainty in the national and international economies. And if the state wasn't facing a potential spike in education spending of $1 billion in 2013-15, $2.5 billion in 2015-17 and $3 billion in 2017-19.

The two leading gubernatorial candidates say the state can handle that kind of spending, from a Supreme Court ruling known as the McCleary decision, without a tax increase. Members of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council were asked if they agree.

“This isn't a campaign event,” replied Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Maybe not. But Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, the council president, said there was an extra $2.2 billion in revenue projected for the next biennium, so that might be considered “a yes we can meet that goal without a tax increase.”

After the council adjourned, however, Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said he thinks the need to find money for McCleary will point out the state's long-running “structural problem” with its tax system that will need to be fixed. “In the next several biennia, we're going to need to have that discussion.” So that might be considered a “no, we can't.”

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About this blog

Jim Camden is a veteran political reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Jonathan Brunt is an enterprise reporter for The Spokesman-Review.


Kip Hill is a general assignments reporter for The Spokesman-Review.

Nick Deshais covers Spokane City Hall for The Spokesman-Review.

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