AG urges court to lift McCleary contempt order against legislature

The state Supreme Court will have plenty to sort through when it decides how to evaluate the state’s progress toward compliance with the court’s McCleary decision. We wrote yesterday about the state’s draft report to the court.

The filings are now available on the court’s website. In addition, not yet up on the site is Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn’s amicus brief

We’ll not go through all of this now, but want to hit a few highlights. Attorney General Robert Ferguson reviews the state’s progress – noting that Initiative 1351 is no part of the case – and concludes,

The State has now taken concrete action that demonstrates real and measurable progress. The State is well on its way to implementing the reforms in ESHB 2261, on the timeline the Legislature established in 2010 in SHB 2776. See McCleary, 173 Wn.2d at 546 (stating that the Court’s objective in retaining jurisdiction was to “monitor implementation of the reforms under ESHB 2261”). The Legislature is on track to reach full implementation and funding in 2018.

The contempt order should be dissolved.

Unsurprisingly, the plaintiffs don’t see it that way

The State’s ongoing violation of its paramount education funding duty – and of Washington children’s corresponding paramount constitutional right – has been continuing for far too long. Plaintiffs therefore respectfully submit that the time has come for this Court to make what some would call a “fish or cut bait” decision. Either stand up and enforce Washington schoolchildren’s positive constitutional right to an amply funded education, or sit down and confess it was only kidding when it assured Washington schoolchildren that this Court would vigilantly protect them from the government’s violation of their constitutional rights.

Dorn also faults the state’s progress.

…Dorn cites the need for a special session to address staffing levels, compensation and levy reform. If the Legislature doesn’t make adequate progress in that special session, then the State should be enjoined from funding services that aren’t based on constitutional mandates or necessary for the immediate response to issues of public safety or to prevent catastrophic loss of state property.

The Seattle Times reports on the briefs, as does Crosscut, the Everett Herald, and the Associated Press