17 August 2015

The Supreme Court of Washington has ordered the Washington State Legislature to pay a daily fine of $100 000 for non-compliance with a court order to adopt a plan to meet its constitutional obligation to “make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders” which confers upon the children of Washington the “right to be amply provided with an education”.

In the decision, the Court criticised the Legislature for “making promises” rather than adopting a plan to fully implement a programme of basic education for each school year until 2018, which details how it will achieve the required goals, including addressing the funding shortfall.  

According to the AP: “In its original ruling, and repeated in later follow-up rulings, the justices have told the Legislature to find a way to pay for the reforms and programmes they had already adopted, including all-day kindergarten, smaller class sizes, student transportation and classroom supplies, and to fix the State's overreliance on local tax levies to pay for education. Relying heavily on local tax levies leads to big disparities in funding between school districts, experts say.”

In its decision to impose remedial sanctions, the Court stated: “Given the gravity of the State’s ongoing violation of its constitutional obligation to amply provide for public education, and in light of the need for expeditious action, the time has come for the court to impose sanctions. A monetary sanction is appropriate to emphasise the cost to the children (…) for every day the State fails to adopt a plan for full compliance.”

The Court also encouraged lawmakers to convene a special session to address the situation.

You can access the decision, here.