The 2014 Legislative Session concluded without any significant funding added. Even more disappointing, there was no substantive discussion regarding the funding plan that the Court had ordered. The Article IX Litigation Committee, which was created by the Legislature in the 2012 Session to produce the annual reports required by the Court, didn’t meet until April 14. They met for two hours on that date and then again on April 29 for less than 10 minutes before unanimously adopting their report. It should come as no surprise given the lack of meaningful work leading up to the report that it is almost completely without substance.
While the Legislature has been silent regarding the plan ordered by the Court, State Superintendent Randy Dorn has taken the initiative to create a detailed funding plan. The cost estimates developed by Superintendent Dorn include the categories identified in ESHB 2261 and SHB 2776. To be clear, those bills represent the legislatively enacted plan for restructuring the state’s basic education funding. They also represent the thrust of the state’s defense in the McCleary Case where they argued that through this legislation the Legislature would address the unconstitutional level of support cited by the Court.
No doubt, there will be some who think that these estimates are too high, and others who feel they are too low. Either way, Superintendent Dorn has helped move the conversation forward by creating a well-crafted proposal in the absence of any serious legislative discussion. And while one may debate the numbers, one cannot suggest that they are pulled from thin air, since they are based on already enacted laws.
The following table summarizes Dorn’s estimates of the new funding required within each category leading up to the Court’s 2018 compliance deadline. Clearly, the lack of progress since the McCleary decision leaves the Legislature in a tough spot to make up considerable ground during the next three years. It’s also clear from this analysis that the total price tag for McCleary compliance is much larger than has been stated by many legislators.
The ball is now with the Supreme Court. The big question is what they will do in response to the Legislature’s continued lack of compliance with their orders.