Washington Supreme Court Rules that State Is Still in Contempt

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Washington Supreme Court Rules that State Is Still in Contempt

Since 2012, when the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the state’s education finance system was unconstitutional, the State has been required to file an annual report with the Court detailing its progress toward full compliance by September, 2018. Frustrated with the state’s lack of progress, in 2015, the Court imposed sanctions that included a “remedial assessment” of $100,000 per day until the State developed an acceptable compliance plan. In 2016, 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 ordered the state to ensure full compliance by June 30, 2017.

In June 2017, Governor Jay Inslee signed into law a state budget that included a $7.3 billion increase over four years for education. In a decision issued last month, the state supreme court held that the new legislation had brought the state into compliance in all outstanding areas, except for the state’s obligation to provide statewide salary allocations necessary to hire and retain qualified staff for the program of basic education by September, 2018. The new legislation committed the state to provide full funding for teacher salaries as of the 2019-2020 school year, but not as of Sept. 1, 2018, as the Court had ordered. The court decided to continue imposing sanctions on the state for failing to comply with the court’s order. It set a strict timetable for further submissions after the close of the 2018 legislative session and indicated that “upon reviewing the parties’ submissions, the court will determine what, if any, additional actions” it would take before the September 2018 deadline.

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