If you have been reading the newspapers the last few days, you know that there was a suit (McCleary v. State) about adequacy of state basic education funding before the state supreme court. That decision was handed down Thursday and was a major victory for the plaintiffs. The full decision can be found here.
In this decision are several items of interest and importance to supporters of appropriate educational opportunities for highly capable students.
• The court found that the new definition of basic education in ESHB 2261 is part of a comprehensive reform acceptable to the court in fulfillment of prior court orders. The inclusion of HCP in this definition is mentioned in several places.
• The court is going to retain jurisdiction over the case to ensure that the provisions of 2261 are fully implemented by the school year 2018, as set out in the law.
• The court reaffirms that “programs and offerings that fall within the legislature’s definition of ‘basic education’ are considered nondiscretionary and must be funded regardless of budgetary constraints.” ” State-level funding for ‘basic education’ is not subject to debate, even in times of budget shortfalls.” (Page 18)
• Unless the Legislature choses to change the definition of basic education (and the decision says such a change “must be accompanied by an educational policy rationale; the legislature may not eliminate an offering from the basic education program for reasons unrelated to educational policy, such as fiscal crisis or mere expediency,” page 54) HCP has a “safe harbor.” We are no longer at extreme risk every budget cycle.
It appears that the new definition of basic education is affirmed and that HCP funding is protected, two goals the Coalition had in supporting ESHB 2261 and subsequent legislation.
This ruling is not likely to ease the stresses on local districts since levy equalization is not a part of basic education and remains at risk of cuts. Districts rely on levies and levy equalization to fund up to 30% of their budgets, much of it going for basic education expenses instead of the enhancements that were the intended purpose of levies.
If you have strong feelings on this decision as a whole and what the Legislature should do next you need to contact your Legislator. A personal communication to your Legislator is always the best way to go. However, two organizations offer quick opportunities to contact your Legislators, if you wish to take advantage of them. These links are informational only and do not constitute an endorsement.
Consider signing on to the petition of the League of Education Voters. If you agree with their statement or if you are pressed for time, this petition might suit your needs.
Or you may wish to work through the state PTA on their Legislative Action Center.
The entire statement from the PTA sent state wide to its members is here.
In 2009, we gathered in Olympia to support the passage of HB 2261. In the McCleary decision, the fruits of that effort have been harvested. Join us on January 23rd to say thank you to our Legislators and all the others who supported our efforts.