Not enough and too late: Critics of Washington’s school-funding plan don’t mince words with Supreme Court

The legislative session may be over, but the fight over school funding continues in briefs to the Supreme Court.

Washington state lawmakers — most of them, anyway — have been patting themselves on the back in recent weeks.

After hastily rushing through an education budgetbefore a June 30 deadline, many House and Senate members returned to their home districts to declare that, after three special sessions, the state finally has a plan to fully pay for the basic education of Washington’s 1.1 million students, as ordered by the state Supreme Court.

Attorneys for the state took up that claim, and in recent court filings argued the justices should close the landmark school-funding case known as McCleary. In that 2012 decision, the Supreme Court ruled the state was violating its constitution by failing to pay the full cost of a basic education in Washington.

But the fight over school funding is not yet over. The plaintiffs in the case, as in the past, say the state still is falling short. And in four “friend of the court” briefs filed late Wednesday, several advocacy groups urged the justices to retain jurisdiction in the McCleary case. Some even called for greater sanctions against the state, which, as of Wednesday, has racked up roughly $80 million in fines.

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The groups that filed briefs Wednesday represent children with special needs, students of color, parents, teachers, civil-rights organizations and school districts. No one filed a brief in support of the state.

Here’s a summary of what they all said:

The plaintiffs, including the McCleary and Venema families and a statewide coalition of districts and teachers unions:

In a brief that referenced Martin Luther King Jr., baseball Hall-of-Famer Bill Veeck and parlor magic tricks, an attorney for the plaintiffs, Tom Ahearne, argued the Legislature’s four-year spending plan violates a court-ordered deadline to implement full funding for schools by September 2018.

The brief also suggests lawmakers used fuzzy math and a complicated tax swap to make it seem like they pumped more money into public schools than they actually did. Ahearne raised additional questions about reforms made to teacher pay, gifted and talented education and local property-tax levies.

Ahearne encouraged the justices to give lawmakers an ultimatum: Fully fund public schools by September 2018 — or risk the suspension of…

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