The McCleary education funding case

The Washington State Constitution states: "It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex." In 1976 the Seattle School District sued the state and the state Supreme Court held that the K-12 funding system was neither ample nor stable as it relied too heavily on local levies. In response, the Legislature adopted the Basic Education Act and the Levy Lid Act, which aimed to limit local levies. Over time, changes made to the Levy Lid Act increased local levy authority to today's rates – triple what they were in some cases. This "levy creep" contributed to the filing of the McCleary lawsuit in 2007. The state Supreme Court accepted review of the case in 2012 and held the state has not amply funded basic education, ordering the state to implement certain reforms, fully fund basic education by 2018, and retained jurisdiction of the case to monitor the state's compliance.


1977-01-14 20:03:09

Doran Decision I - McCleary's predecessor

Following a levy failure in 1976, Seattle School District No. 1 sues the state claiming the Legislature is not meeting its constitutional obligation to make ample provision for basic education. On Jan. 14 the following year, Thurston County Superior Court Judge Robert Doran issues a decision (Doran Decision I) holding the state had not sufficiently funded basic education and that the Legislature must define and fully fund a basic education program through 'regular and dependable tax sources' - not local levies.

1977-06-01 03:54:17

1977 Levy Lid Act enacted

In both the Doran (1977) and McCleary (2012) decisions, the Court cites the state's overreliance on local levies to pay for basic education is unacceptable per the state's constitutional obligation to provide "ample provision" for basic education. Prior to the widespread levy failures of the mid-1970s, local levy revenues made up more than 30 percent of a total school district's revenue. The 1977 Levy Lid Act limits the amount of revenue a school district can raise through maintenance-and-operation levies (M&O). Most school district levies were limited to 10 percent of a district's basic education allocation beginning in 1979. School districts with historically higher M&O levies were grandfathered, with the intent to move all districts to 10 percent by 1982. Since the Act passed, the Legislature has incrementally increased the local levy lid. Today, 205 of the 295 school districts have a higher levy lid (28.01 percent to 37.9 percent) due to grandfathering. Out of this legislation comes the local effort assistance program (levy equalization, or LEA), which is created to mitigate the effect above-average property tax rates may have on the ability of a school district to raise local revenues through voter-approved levies.

1983-04-29 13:25:55

Doran Decision II

The plaintiffs in this case challenge the budget cuts made by the Legislature for the 1981-83 biennium and request full state funding for other programs, such as building repairs, food service and desegregation. Judge Doran rules that once the Legislature has defined and fully funded a program of basic education, it may not reduce the level of funding due to budget shortfalls. The Legislature must also fund "salaries necessary to assure local school districts the ability to hire and retain competent staff." Doran also notes in his decision that “basic education” must include the following: 1) special education programs; 2) transitional bilingual education programs; 3) remediation assistance programs/learning assistance programs; 4) pupil transportation for some; 5) vocational education.

1992-04-01 03:54:17

Initial framework for basic ed reform established

Passage of Senate Bill 5953 establishes the initial framework for education reform. The bill creates the Commission on Student Learning in order to identify what knowledge and skills students need in a performance-based education system. In addition, this legislation provides for the development of Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs), which defines the knowledge and skills students need at each grade level, and required students to earn a Certificate of Mastery in order to graduate.

1993-05-12 03:54:17

State learning goals established

A modification of Senate Bill 5953 (1992), House Bill 1209 sets forth the state learning goals - 1) read with comprehension, write with skill, and communicate effectively and responsibly in a variety of ways and settings; 2) know and apply the core concepts and principles of mathematics, sciences, history, geography, arts, and health and fitness; 3) think analytically, logically and creatively, and integrate experience and knowledge to form reasoned judgments and solve problems; 4) understand the importance of work and how performance and decisions directly affect future career and education opportunities; and 5) function as responsible individuals and contributing members of families, work groups and communities – and establishes timelines for development of EALRs and statewide student assessments. Under this bill, the Certificate of Mastery - a graduation requirement - became dependent on the high school assessment being found reliable and valid.

2006-01-11 13:06:06

"Fund Education First"

Rep. Glenn Anderson (R-Fall City) sponsors House Bill 2637, which would create a separate K-12 education funding budget and would require that appropriations for basic education funding be made prior to any other appropriation. The bill is referred to the House Appropriations committee but never receives a hearing. Since then, Republicans have sponsored similar legislation, but the proposals have yet to advance through the legislative process.

2007-01-11 13:25:55

McCleary family and other plaintiffs bring lawsuit to King County

A group of plaintiffs, led by the McCleary family, file a lawsuit in King County Superior Court alleging the state is not adequately funding public education according to Article IX of the state Constitution.

2007-04-18 03:54:17

Constitution amended to allow for simple majority to raise local levies

House Joint Resolution 4204, a constitutional amendment, allows for a simple majority voter approval for maintenance-and-operations (M&O) levies. This does not affect levies to pay for bonds for capital projects, which still require 60 percent voter approval.

2007-04-22 03:54:17

Joint Task Force on Basic Education Finance is created, advises Legislature

By passage of Senate Bill 5627, the Joint Task Force on Basic Education Finance is created to review the definition of a basic education program and to make recommendations for a new funding structure, building upon previous work conducted by Washington Learns (2005-06). The task force is composed of 14 members, including former House Republican Reps. Glenn Anderson (Fall City) and Skip Priest (Federal Way). Over the course of two years, the task force meets 17 times for a total of 25 days. Its final report in December 2009 provides the following: a more rigorous, challenging education program is necessary to acquire the appropriate education skills in a progressively growing society and economy and to, more specifically, require 24 course-credits to graduate high school; include preschool for three- and four-year-olds; emphasize postsecondary-education success and success beyond high school in basic education programming; require specialized instruction for non-English language learners; provide special education for students with disabilities; and more.

2008-01-14 14:37:44

Resolution to bring K-12 funding-priority to vote of the people

Rep. Glenn Anderson (R-Fall City) sponsors House Joint Resolution 4200 that, had it passed, would have brought to a vote of the people whether to amend the state constitution to prioritize basic education funding before any other budgetary measure.

2009-01-20 03:54:17

Bipartisan bill proposed to implement recommendations from Basic Ed Finance Task Force

Co-sponsored by Reps. Pat Sullivan (D-Covington) and Skip Priest (R-Federal Way), House Bill 1410 would have implemented the recommendations outlined in the Joint Task Force on Basic Education Finance's December 2009 report to the Legislature. As a result of strong opposition - primarily from the Washington Education Association - the bill eventually leads to House Bill 2261 (2009). According to a 2009 article, chair of the House Appropriations Committee Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina) stated that, had House Bill 1410 passed, it could have increased education funding by 40 to 50 percent.

2009-04-22 03:54:17

Legislature to reevaluate and define the funding of basic education

House Bill 2261 passes the Legislature with bipartisan support. This bill states the Legislature's intent to revisit and evaluate the definition and funding of basic education and to acknowledge there is no one-size-fits-all solution for a successful public education system. More specifically, House Bill 2261 redefines the program of basic education and establishes a framework for a new funding formula based on prototypical schools to allocate state dollars to school districts to support basic education. The legislation also adopts a new pupil transportation funding formula, and creates work groups on the funding formula, compensation, data and local finance.

2009-05-12 03:54:17

Lawmakers take deeper look into student achievement gaps

Senate Bill 5973 creates the Achievement Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee, requiring annual reports be submitted to the Legislature about strategies to address the achievement gap and how to improve student performance across different groups.

2010-02-24 03:54:17

Findings entered from King County Superior Court on McCleary K-12 funding case

King County Superior Court Judge John P. Erlick enters findings and an order in favor of McCleary, et al. claiming the state is not adequately funding basic education. The state appeals later that year.

2010-03-11 03:54:17

Legislature adopts new distribution funding formula for K-12 education

Another bipartisan bill, House Bill 2776, passes the Legislature and sets forth a number of distribution funding formulas for basic education. The passage of this bill establishes numeric values for the prototypical school funding formula created in House Bill 2261, which passed in 2009. Numeric values are set forth for average class size, allocations of building-level staff, supplemental instruction for categorical programs, central office administration, and allocations for maintenance, supplies and operating costs (MSOC). The bill also requires continued phase-ins for K-3 class-size reductions, increased MSOC allocations, full-day kindergarten and a new funding formula for pupil transportation. To read legislative documents related to this bill and its passage, click "Find out more."

2010-03-11 13:25:55

Levy lid increases from 24 to 28 percent; House Republicans oppose

House Bill 2893 passes, increasing the levy lid from 24 to 28 percent for non-grandfathered districts, from 2011 to 2017. It also increased a district's levy base by including certain formerly allocated revenues. This increase expired effective with levies for calendar year 2018. At that time, the levy lid will return to 24 percent (for non-grandfathered districts) and the formerly allocated revenues will be removed from the levy base.

2010-03-29 03:54:17

'Race to the top' legislation passes

Senate Bill 6696 establishes an accountability framework and process for low-achieving schools and requires revised evaluation systems for teachers and principals.

2011-06-28 03:54:17

Oral arguments are given in the McCleary school funding case

After the state appeals King County Superior Court Judge John P. Erlick's decision in 2010, the state Supreme Court takes direct review of the case. Oral arguments are given June 28, 2011.

2012-01-05 03:54:17

Supreme Court's decision in McCleary, et al. vs. State of Washington

In addition to the Court deeming the state is not meeting its constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education, it also declares that providing 'adequate' funds would not be enough. According to the opinion: "...fundamental reforms are needed for Washington to meet its constitutional obligation to its students. Pouring more money into an outmoded system will not succeed."

2012-03-01 03:54:17

Joint Select Committee on Article IX Litigation is formed

Passage of House Concurrent Resolution 4410 creates the Joint Select Committee on Article IX Litigation in order to: 1) facilitate communication with the Court on school funding legislation; 2) advise and direct the attorneys representing the Legislature in the McCleary case; and 3) apprise legislators of the communication from the Court regarding McCleary. The committee consists of eight legislators – two from each of the Legislature’s caucuses.

2012-03-08 03:54:17

Bipartisan bill passes to create accountability through teacher evals

Senate Bill 5895 creates a more rigorous process for teacher and principal evaluations based on the passage of Senate Bill 6696 (2010), holding the system accountable and ensuring continued success and necessary attention for students. Elements of the legislation include: a performance element for tenure, mandatory dismissal of underperforming teachers and requiring student growth data be a factor in evaluations, among other guidelines and directions.

2012-07-12 03:54:17

Article IX Committee to report progress each legislative session

The state Supreme Court orders the Joint Select Committee on Article IX Litigation to issue reports at the conclusion of each legislative session.

2012-09-17 03:54:17

Article IX Committee issues first report to the Washington Supreme Court

In brief, the Article IX Committee's first report responds to the Supreme Court ruling, discusses recently enacted education reforms, the state's operating budget and ongoing education reform- and funding-efforts.

2012-12-06 03:54:17

Court: Article IX Committee fails to demonstrate progress

The state Supreme Court says the first report from the Joint Select Committee on Article IX Litigation does not meet the Court's requirement to demonstrate progress.

2012-12-20 03:54:17

WA Supreme Court Justice J.M. Johnson issues his dissenting opinion

Justice J.M. Johnson: "Today's order clearly violates two important provisions of our constitution: the separation of powers and the explicit delegation of education to the Legislature. This order purports to control the Washington State Legislature and its funding for education until 2018. The order ultimately impairs the implementation of newly designed, best available education techniques for our school children. I dissent." To read his entire opinion, click "Find out more." (Johnson expressed similar sentiments in his Jan. 13, 2014 dissenting opinion to the Court's Jan. 9, 2014 order.)

2013-03-14 03:54:17

House Republicans release "Fund Education First" budget proposal

House Republicans release their proposed 2013-15 operating budget, known as the "Fund Education First" proposal. The proposal balanced within existing revenues while still increasing K-12 education funding by $903 million, which included funding for K-3 class-size reductions, expansion of full-day kindergarten, and an increase in the materials, supplies and operating costs allocations.

2013-05-07 03:54:17

State passes reforms to aid persistently failing schools

Senate Republicans receive bipartisan support to advance Senate Bill 5329, which updates criteria used by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to identify and evaluate persistently failing schools and map out a plan to transform those schools.

2013-05-08 03:54:17

Legislators pass bill establishing academic acceleration support

House Bill 1642 passes with bipartisan support to encourage school districts to adopt a policy to automatically enroll students who meets standard on high school state assessments in the next most rigorous advanced course in that subject. The objective is for students to eventually enroll in dual-credit courses by choice.

2013-05-16 03:54:17

Statewide indicators of K-12 educational health are established

Senate Bill 5491 establishes six statewide indicators of education health, including student achievement on state assessments, graduation rates, and post-graduation education and employment.

2013-06-28 03:54:17

K-12 funding increased in 2013-15 operating budget

The 2013-15 operating budget (Senate Bill 5035) is approved by the Legislature. The budget appropriates more than $17 billion for public schools, including funding to expand full-day kindergarten, increase pupil transportation, and increase materials, supplies and operating costs allocations.

2013-06-30 13:25:55

State Legislature passes major K-12 reforms to improve student outcomes

Sen. Bruce Dammeier (R-Puyallup), along with Sen. David Frockt (D-Seattle), advance Senate Bill 5946, further ensuring student outcomes be a top priority in education and school reform. The bill requires more scrupulous accountability and improvement measures for K-4 reading competency improvements, provides clearer directions on Learning Assistance Program (LAP) fund use, sets time limits for suspensions and expulsions, and refines the Alternative Learning Experience program.

2013-08-29 03:54:17

Second report issued by the Article IX Committee

This report largely provides an overview of the 2013-15 operating budget, which contains $982 million in basic education enhancements. These appropriations represent an 11.4 percent increase from the 2011-13 budget. Basic education enhancements in the 2013-15 budget include: $89.8 million for full-day kindergarten; $131.7 million for pupil transportation; $374 million for MSOC; and $103.6 million for K-1 class-size reductions.

2013-09-30 03:54:17

McCleary plaintiffs respond to the Article IX Committee's second report

According to the plaintiffs, the $982 million appropriated in the 2013-15 budget for education is not adequate as the state moves toward the Supreme-Court-mandated goal of full funding by 2018. The plaintiffs say they would have also liked to see the state lay out a "detailed" plan for 2018 and to demonstrate "steady, real and measurable progress" toward the aforementioned goal.

2014-01-09 03:54:17

Supreme Court asks to see state's full basic ed funding plan by April

As a result of the McCleary plaintiffs' response to the Article IX committee’s second report, the Supreme Court issues an order claiming that while the Legislature did make some progress by way of basic education funding, that progress was not “significant.” More specifically, the Court states the Legislature is on a path to inefficient pupil-transportation funding and a significant lack of progress was made toward MSOC funding. The Court orders the state to submit a full-basic-education-program funding plan by April 30, 2014.

2014-01-14 03:54:17

Separate 'Fund Education First' budget proposed by House Republicans

House Republicans, again, push to reform how the Legislature addresses its paramount duty to fund education by proposing to create a separate K-12 budget to be appropriated before any other budgetary measure. Additionally, House Bill 1174 would have reprioritized the phase-in schedule for additional state investments to fund all-day kindergarten first, K-3 class-size reductions second, increased instructional hours third, increased MSOC funding fourth and pupil transportation fifth. The bill is never given a hearing.

2014-03-13 03:54:17

2014 supplemental budget provides additional K-12 funding

The 2014 supplemental operating budget (Senate Bill 6002) is approved by the Legislature. It includes $58 million to increase the materials, supplies and operating costs allocations, and $2 million for the new teacher mentoring program.

2014-03-13 03:54:17

Bill sponsored to require reviews of education investments

Senate Bill 6455 would have required the Washington State Institute of Public Policy to conduct systematic reviews of investments in K-12 education. The bill dies in the Senate Rules Committee.

2014-03-13 03:54:17

Bipartisan bill aims to address class-size reduction facility needs

House Bill 2797, cosponsored by Reps. Drew MacEwen (R-Union) and Hans Dunshee (D-Snohomish), would have authorized revenue bonds backed by lottery revenues to address all-day kindergarten and K-3 class-size reduction facility needs. While some think the Washington State Lottery was created to help fund education, it was actually created to provide revenues for the State General Fund, which supports schools among other human services, natural resources and government programs. In 2000, voters approved Initiative Measure No. 728, which redirected Lottery revenue from the State General Fund to the Student Achievement and Education Construction funds. Facing a $9 million budget deficit in 2009, the Legislature redirected Lottery dollars from education to other suffering state programs, including education. A few more redirections followed and now Lottery revenues contribute primarily to the Opportunity Pathways Account (higher education), stadium debt reduction (Safeco and CenturyLink fields), and supporting problem gambling prevention and treatment.

2014-04-03 03:54:17

State lawmakers create more rigorous diploma requirements with SB 6552

Washington state legislators pass SB 6552 during the 2014 session, which requires school districts to provide students the opportunity to complete 24 credits for high school graduation (beginning in 2019). The bill also increases instructional-hour requirements and the CTE-equivalency requirement.

2014-04-30 03:54:17

State/Article IX Committee responds to Jan. 9 Supreme Court order; no funding plan

While the Legislature made additional investments in basic education during the 2014 session, it did not enact a specific funding timeline as ordered by the Court in January. Though the Court denied that the Legislature had made adequate progress toward full funding by 2018, the Legislature contends that the Court relied upon outdated cost-estimates. Moreover, the Court relied on early estimates from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) while the Legislature allocated funding based on the most recent data provided by school districts to OSPI for the expected costs. Additionally, the state argues even though a funding formula was not enacted, passage of one was the topic of many discussions and legislation proposed during the 2014 session.

2014-05-29 03:54:17

McCleary plaintiffs respond to state's lack of full-implementation funding schedule

In response to the state's April 30 filing, the plaintiffs argue that just because 2014 was a supplemental budget year for the Legislature, lawmakers were not excused from enacting a funding plan as ordered by the Court. The plaintiffs also argue the potential "separation of powers" issue (as argued by Justice Johnson) was irrelevant to the fact the state did not comply with the Court’s recent order.

2014-06-12 03:54:17

Transparency in public school data signed into law

Senate Bill 6062, which improves government transparency by requiring internet access to public school data and expenditure information, is signed into law.

2014-06-12 03:54:17

WA Supreme Court orders state to present arguments in show-cause hearing

Following the Legislature's failure to enact a funding schedule for basic education, the Court issues an order requiring the Legislature to appear before the Court and present arguments as to why the state should not be found in contempt and face possible sanctions. The state presents their opening brief July 11 and the plaintiffs respond Aug. 11. The show-cause hearing takes place Sept. 3.

2014-09-11 03:54:17

Supreme Court finds state in contempt

Following the Sept. 3 show-cause hearing, the Court finds the state in contempt and requires the state to submit a funding plan by the end of the 2015 legislative session. No further sanctions or punishments are issued.

2014-11-04 03:54:17

I-1351 passes: an effort to reduce class sizes

I-1351, an initiative aimed at reducing class sizes over time, passes into law. It would require the Legislature to pay for an additional estimated 25,000 K-12 public school employees the next four years in order to accommodate class-size reductions.

2015-01-16 03:54:17

An attempt to dedicate additional dollars to K-12

Senate Ways and Means Committee approves Senate Bill 5063 (which has a Republican-sponsored companion in the House), which dedicates two-thirds of new revenue from certain accounts to state education programs, including K-12 education, early learning programs, and higher education. The bill ultimately dies in the Senate Rules Committee.

2015-03-26 03:54:17

House Republicans sponsor bill to streamline high school assessments

House Republicans introduce a bipartisan bill to streamline student assessments. For a comprehensive analysis, click "Find out more."

2015-04-30 03:54:17

Court extends sanctions against state Legislature

The state Supreme Court grants an extension on sanctions against the state as lawmakers begin a special session to negotiate a two-year state budget.

2015-06-08 03:54:17

Another extension to sanctions against Legislature is granted by the Court

Due to the Legislature needing another special session to negotiate a two-year state budget, the Court provides another extension on sanctions.

2015-06-29 03:54:17

2015-17 budget adds significant investments in K-12 education

Senate Bill 6052 (the 2015-17 operating budget) is approved by the Legislature. The budget provides $740 million for materials, supplies and operating costs, $350 million to reduce K-3 class size, and $180 million to expand full-day kindergarten. It also fully funds I-732 teacher COLA at maintenance level (1.8 percent/1.2 percent) and provides an additional one-time salary adjustment (1.2 percent/0.6 percent). As a result of its passage, K-12 education makes up 48 percent of the state budget.

The McCleary education funding case

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