In August 2015, the Washington Supreme Court imposed sanctions on the state for its failure to make sufficient progress in complying with its 2012 order in McCleary v. State of Washington. Finding that although some progress had been made, the State still had not adopted an acceptable “plan for achieving compliance by its own deadline of 2018,” the Court imposed a “remedial assessment” of $100,000 per day on the State until such time as the State develops an acceptable compliance plan.
During its 2016 legislative session, the Washington legislature established a task force and authorized the task force to hire a consultant to obtain necessary data and to set out sufficient recommendations for the legislature to adopt a definitive plan during its 2017 session to achieve compliance, including full funding of necessary reforms, which the legislature promised to do. In a decision issued earlier this month, the Court, deemed this action to be insufficient:
In its latest report, the State continues to provide a promise—-“we’ll get there next year”— rather than a concrete plan for how it will meet its paramount duty. It forestalls taking action while awaiting the recommendations of its latest task force. In terms of demonstrating measurable progress, the State’s 2016 report offers no more than the previous reports the court has determined fell short.
Accordingly, having determined that its contempt finding and monetary sanction “at least spurred the legislature to take action in the 2016 session, committing itself to complete its task by the end of the 2017 session,” the Court kept the monetary sanctions in place, established a briefing schedule for determining shortly after the end of the 2017 whether compliance will have been achieved, and stated that upon reviewing the parties’ submissions at that time, it will determine what, if any, additional actions to take.
Thomas Ahearne, attorney for the Plaintiffs, had asked the Court to impose more drastic sanctions including shutting down the entire public school system until compliance is achieved or eliminating all tax exemptions in order to provide more funding for education. He know said that he was happy with the court’s ruling because it makes it very clear that those sanctions are still a possibility if the Legislature does not finish its work next year.