State Supreme Court will hear arguments on McCleary school-funding case tomorrow. Did the state meet its legal obligation?

The state Supreme Court will hold a one-hour hearing tomorrow on the road to deciding if the state has complied with its paramount duty to fund basic education. You can watch the proceedings on TVW at 10:00 a.m. For those interested in pre-reading, the court’s website has a full list of the many briefs, rulings, reports and orders filed in the case. 

The Seattle Times reports,

“We believe we have met the bar for McCleary,” a spokeswoman for the governor said in an email. But, she added, “we continue to recognize that is a low bar and we still need to do more.”

Justices will hear that view Tuesday — and also from the plaintiffs in the case who maintain that the budget falls far short of what the court ordered.

That’s a view shared by many school officials across the state, who have warned that, in a few years, they won’t have enough money to pay their current staff, meet federal education requirements and keep the lights on. They also worry about new restrictions that in 2019 will prevent them from tapping local revenue to fill in where state funding falls short.

It’s not altogether clear what that McCleary set a “low bar.” The court’s 2012 opinion launched an intense legislative reconsideration of education funding and reform, resulting in a major infusion of state dollars. As the Times writes,

At $7.3 billion, the new spending plan will provide more money for teacher salaries, smaller class sizes and programs that help gifted students, children from low-income households and English learners.

The News Tribune asks,

Will it be curtains for McCleary, five years after the original ruling?

Attorney General Bob Ferguson says it should be. He wrote to the court the state’s tax reforms were the last crucial element of McCleary to finish. The state boosted spending enough to fully funding basic education, he says.

Ferguson argues that the cost of basic education is met, even if school districts say they need more cash. He wrote basic education is not “defined by school districts’ expenditures” and shouldn’t be “funded without constraint” by the state.

He also argues school districts should be fine, and they should check their math. Ferguson contends every school district comes out with more total funding than what they would have received under past law.

Ferguson also says teachers and school administrators are in good shape under the new spending plan. The state is hiking what it pays to hire those employees and expects the average salary to rise across the state.

“The State is in compliance,” Ferguson wrote. “No further remedy is necessary. The Court need not retain jurisdiction any longer. It is time for this case to end.”

The News Tribune ends its story by pointing out,

When the court will decide if Ferguson is right is unclear. But it could have big effects on next year’s legislative session and beyond.

We’ve written that we believe the state makes a good case. We also agree, it’s time for the case to end.