funding, the Court documented discrep-
Contempt and Sanctions in the
ancies between the education funding
formula and actual education costs;
noted major deficits for teacher and ad-
ministrative salaries; and stressed that
the Legislature’s overreliance “on levy
funding to finance basic education was
unconstitutional 30 years ago . . . and it
not “stand on the sidelines and hope the
State meets its constitutional mandate
to amply fund education.” 9
Wake of McCleary
True to its word, shortly after issuing its
decision the Court began issuing orders
to monitor legislative compliance. With
each order, the Legislature responded.
Each legislative response demonstrated
inadequate progress and was met with
an additional order. Two years later, the
Court finally had enough. Its response:
For the first time in state history, the
Court held the Legislature in contempt.
“The Court expects [orders] to be
obeyed even though they are directed to a coordinate branch of government. When the orders are not
followed, contempt is the lawful and
proper means of enforcement . . .” 10
Giving the Legislature one last chance,
the Court held sanctions in abeyance. Its
options: purge its contempt by the close
of the 2015 legislative session or face
By August 2015 — three special sessions and several deadline extensions
later — the Court found the Legislature’s
2015–17 budget still fell short. The Legislature had fully funded student transportation, reached MSOC expenditure
goals, and made substantial progress toward funding full-day kindergarten and
K– 3 class size reduction, but it was not
enough. The Legislature failed to submit
a concrete plan to address personnel
costs and levy equalization issues. Thus,
on Aug. 13, 2015, the Court ordered
$100,000 in sanctions per day until the
Legislature “adopts a complete plan” to
fully fund basic education by 2018.
Current State of Funding
In May 2016, the Legislature filed its
latest report with the Court. Its report
details a $5 billion increase in education
funding and assures the Court that it
now has a plan. That plan is E2SSB 6195.
The Legislature promises E2SSB 6195
will fund the state’s basic education obligations “including competitive salaries
and benefits for school staff — and [will]
eliminate school district dependency on
local levies.” 11 The Legislature thus asks
is unconstitutional now.” 8
To remedy these funding blunders,
the Court ordered the Legislature to
fully fund the Prototypical School Model
set out in ESHB 2261 and staff salaries
and benefits by 2018 using “regular and
dependable tax sources.” The Court retained jurisdiction and vowed it would
JULY 2012 ORDER — required periodic reports from the Legislature showing
“real and measurable progress” toward achieving full funding by 2018.
SEPTEMBER 2012 LEGISLATIVE REPORT — provided a baseline description
of the K– 12 budget in Washington and described the steps taken in the wake
of McCleary, including the establishment of the Joint Select Committee on
Article IX Litigation.
DECEMBER 2012 ORDER — required the submission of a phase-in plan with
periodic benchmarks detailing the progress made toward fully funding ESHB
2261 by 2018.
AUGUST 2013 LEGISLATIVE REPORT — detailed the progress made in the
2013–15 biennium, appropriating $982 million in enhancements to the program of basic education.
JANUARY 2014 ORDER — documented inadequate progress in funding basic education including personnel costs, class size reduction, and MSOCs.
Ordered the Legislature to submit a “full-basic-education” plan including “a
phase-in schedule for fully funding each of the components of basic education” by April 30, 2014.
APRIL/MAY 2014 LEGISLATIVE REPORT — detailed the progress made toward fully funding basic education, including full funding of student transportation. It did not establish timelines for a plan to fund basic education as
ordered on Jan. 9, 2014.
JUNE 2014 ORDER — summoned the Legislature to a show-cause hearing to
address why it should not be held in contempt of the Court’s Jan. 9, 2014,
JULY 2014 LEGISLATIVE RESPONSE — admitted non-compliance with the
Court’s Jan. 9, 2014, Order, but urged the Court not to hold it in contempt.
Asked to have the 2015 budget session to develop and enact a plan.
SEPTEMBER 2014 ORDER — held the Legislature in contempt for its failure
to comply with the January 2014 Order. Held sanctions in abeyance until the
close of the 2015 legislative session.
JULY 2015 LEGISLATIVE REPORT — documented full funding of student
transportation, meeting MSOC expenditure goals, full funding of COLA salary
increases, and substantial progress toward full funding of full-day kindergarten and K– 3 class-size reduction. Did not include a concrete plan addressing
levy reform or personnel costs.
AUGUST 2015 ORDER — imposed sanctions of $100,000 per day until the
Legislature adopts a complete plan to fully fund basic education by 2018.
MAY 2016 LEGISLATIVE REPORT — detailed a roughly $5 billion increase in
education funding and assured the Court it now has a plan to address levy
reform and fund personnel costs. Asked the Court to lift its monetary sanction and dissolve its contempt order.