In 2012, the Washington Supreme Court held that the state was in violation of the state constitution because it had not provided “ample” funding for the basic education to which all students are entitled. McCleary v. State. In order to ensure an effective remedy, the Court retained jurisdiction of the case, and ordered the legislature to provide annual reports that would “show real and measurable progress toward achieving compliance…”
In January, 2014 the Court issued an order in response to the legislature’s 2013 report, which it had found to be inadequate. The order required the state to submit, “a complete plan for fully implementing its program of basic education for each school year between now and the 2017-2018 school year” by April 30, 2014. On April 30, the legislature responded with a lengthy report that discussed what the legislature had done in regard to school funding in 2013 and a number of additional bills that were under consideration, but the bottom line was that “there was no political agreement reached between the legislative chambers on what the full implementation plan should look like.
The plaintiffs promptly responded with a brief requesting that the court impose sanctions on the state to enforce its orders. They recommended that the court consider, among other things, holding elected officials in contempt of court, imposing monetary sanctions, prohibiting expenditures on certain other matters until the court’s constitutional ruling is complied with, ordering the sale of State property to fund compliance, or shutting down the school system unless the constitutional violation is stopped. They also reminded the court that in its January, 2014, the court itself had said:
We have no wish to be forced into entering specific funding directives to the State, or, as some state high courts have done, holding the legislature in contempt of court. But, it is incumbent upon the State to demonstrate, through immediate, concrete action, that it is making real and measurable progress, not simply promises.