Spokesman-Review makes case for “patience” on school funding; Union-Bulletin finds absenteeism rate “an embarrassment”

Last week we wrote about the McCleary plaintiffs’ brief to the state Supreme Court urging harsh sanctions. The brief argued that the state’s response to the court’s call for full funding of the schools was inadequate. At times, the brief gets passionate, as Jim Camden reported in the Spokesman-Review. 

After a rendering of the nearly four-decade legal fight over proper school funding, [plaintiffs’ attorney Thomas] Ahearne spiced up his argument with a bit of questionable hyperbole. He likened the Legislature’s constitutional failure to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and suggested the court get as tough with lawmakers as the feds did with Alabama Gov. George Wallace in the fight over desegregation.

Still, the S-R editorial board thinks that circumstances require a bit more patience.

It’s fair to be skeptical of the state Legislature’s determination to meet the Supreme Court’s mandate to complete a plan to fully fund basic education, but tossing grenades into the process at this point will needlessly disrupt lawmakers’ homework.

Plus, it would hand fodder to politicians spoiling for a constitutional crisis.

Besides, the editorial acknowledges that lawmakers have done a lot.

Over the past four years the Legislature has poured an additional $4.5 billion into education, including full funding for transportation, full-day kindergarten and materials, supplies and other costs. Lawmakers also have begun funding class-size reduction for K-3 students.

The remaining issues – teacher pay and levy reform – are complex and being addressed by legislative committees.

The best course now?

We certainly agree that all of this activity should have begun long ago, but if the court were to get aggressive now, it could compel a showdown between branches of government and give more recalcitrant legislators an excuse to change the subject.

The wise move is to wait and watch one last time.

And while we’re catching up on education news, we want to return to last week’s report on chronic absenteeism in Washington schools. The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin is not impressed with the state’s performance.

The data should be viewed as an embarrassment. Having well-educated people is essential for a prosperous state. It’s not enough to fund schools, steps must be taken to ensure students are attending those schools.

Yes. In short: fund the schools appropriately and make sure students show up for class. There’s more, but that’s a start.