Governor signs education funding bill, saying legislation meets state’s “constitutional, moral and familial obligation.”

Gov. Jay Inslee yesterday signed the Legislature’s education funding plan, saying it should satisfy the state Supreme Court’s McCleary mandate and more. The Spokesman-Review reports,

“We have met our constitutional, moral and familial obligation,” said Inslee, surrounded by schoolchildren, legislative leaders, lobbyists and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal. “In the years to come … we’re going to know that today we’ve done the right thing.”

Starting salaries for teachers and other certified school employees will go up. Teachers will have three paid professional learning days and expanded mentoring programs. Those who work in low-income areas will make more, as will those who teach in districts where it is expensive to live. The state will spend more on students in special education, those who are gifted and those who don’t speak English as their first language. Class sizes will be reduced, and more emphasis will be placed on training for jobs that don’t require a college education.

The signing provided an opportunity for bipartisan celebration.

At Thursday’s signing ceremony, all sides talked of victory in the effort to meet the court’s mandate.

Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman John Braun, R-Centralia, called the law a comprehensive, bipartisan plan, and its signing “a historic day.”

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, echoed those sentiments, adding: “There were days when we thought we would not get here.”

The Seattle Times provides a helpful FAQ to the legislation. The Associated Press notes the the next stop is the state Supreme Court, where plaintiffs will argue the state didn’t go far enough.

Tom Ahearne, the attorney for the plaintiffs in the education funding case against the state, known as McCleary, said Thursday that the plan “doesn’t come close to complying” with what the court ruled. 

“The court has to decide whether it actually meant what it said and whether the constitutional rights of kids in our state are going to be upheld,” he said.

The Legislature must now prepare a report to the high court detailing the progress it has made on satisfying the initial ruling. That report, along with an accompanying legal brief from the attorney general’s office, is due by the end of the month.

We don’t predict how the court will respond, but we agree with lawmakers that the  legislation marks a signal achievement in the state’s education funding and reform history.