The McCleary plaintiffs file their brief; Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn also proposes “dramatic options”

Last month, we wrote of the state’s filing to the state Supreme Court, asking that sanctions be lifted and the court acknowledge the state has met its obligations under the court’s McCleary order. The Attorney General memo predicted, accurately, that the plaintiff’s would reject the Legislature’s response and call for harsh sanctions.

They did and they do. The Associated Press reports,

The brief does not outline what the court should do to enforce its previous orders. But the court has already heard a long suggestion list in previous filings and hearings: from taking over the state budget process to shutting down public schools.

In the brief filed yesterday afternoon, the plaintiffs make clear their displeasure. Some excerpts:

2016 was the last legislative session that could produce a complete plan for phasing in the revenue and funding increases needed to reach full Article IX, section 1 compliance by the 2017-2018 school year. But instead of producing that plan, the State’s taking a ride on a frequently used merry-go-round: delay another year by creating another task force. ..

 Plaintiffs submit that the State’s repeated lack of compliance has now left this Court with no meaningful option other than to firmly follow through with the vigilance it previously promised to uphold and enforce the constitutional right of every child in our State to an amply funded K-12 education. If this Court does too little, it might as well candidly declare to Washington’s public school children that their constitutional rights are just empty platitudes. And that court orders are just suggestions…

Plaintiffs submit that the 2016 legislature’s enactment of a bill providing further promises about what next year’s legislature will hopefully do is just more of the same.

And much more in an extended recitation of the court’s orders and the Legislature’s responses. The brief also explicitly rejects one idea that has previously received considerable legislative attention.

The “unconstitutional reliance on local levies” noted in this Court’s decision was a rejection of the notion that the State can take credit for local levy dollars as being part of its State funding. It was not a suggestion by this Court that the State could solve school districts’ lack of ample funding with “reforms” that take local levy dollars away and then hand them back calling them State dollars (the so-called “levy swap” or “levy swipe” reform). 

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn also filed an amicus brief with the court. In a press release, Dorn offers what he calls “dramatic” steps the court might take. 

In the brief I present the Court with five options:

  1. Hold individual legislators in contempt and subject to a remedial penalty
  2. Prevent the payment of special levy funds to school districts
  3. Prevent the operation of certain state tax credits and exemptions
  4. Prevent the expenditure of non-education state funds that are not constitutionally required or otherwise necessary
  5. And finally, close our public schools until the legislature makes real progress in fully funding our schools

With that, the ball returns to the court’s court.