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standards of the basic education program.
The reforms placed additional demands
on school districts, but failed to amend the
funding formula resulting in additional
Recognizing a problem, in 2005 the
Legislature began performing a comprehensive K– 12 finance study to determine
the actual costs of providing students
with a “basic education.” The study revealed substantial deficits in funding,
but the Legislature took no significant
action to revise the funding formula.
McCleary and Legislative
Faced with a funding crisis resembling
that of the 1970s, in 2007 a group of
parents and over 200 school districts
filed the McCleary case proclaiming the
Legislature was not meeting its “
paramount duty” to amply fund education.
While litigation was pending, the
Legislature passed two major pieces of
legislation — ESHB 2261 and SHB 2776.
This legislation redefined “basic education” and established the “Prototypical
School Model.” The Prototypical School
Model was aimed at fully funding K– 12
education by 2018 without the use of
local levy funds. The legislation specifically called for full funding of:
1. student transportation;
2. materials, supplies, and operating
3. full-day kindergarten; and
4. the reduction of class sizes in
grades K– 3.
On the heels of this new legislation, the
McCleary case reached the Washington
The McCleary Decision
On Jan. 5, 2012, the McCleary Court
reached a unanimous decision: “the
State has failed to adequately fund the
education” for all children in Washington as required by Article IX, Section 1
of the Washington State Constitution.
Echoing its Seattle predecessor, the
McCleary Court reaffirmed that the duty
of the Legislature to fund education is
“paramount.” That is, the State’s “first
and highest priority” must be to fund
education before any other program or
In its examination of educational