Saturday, November 3, 2007

funding lawsuit clears next major hurdle

Big news out of King County Superior Court:
Judge Michael Heavey wrote in an opinion attached to his order granting summary judgment that uneven distribution of state money to school districts violates the state constitution because it is not general and uniform, and violates the equal-protection rights of Federal Way teachers, students and taxpayers.

The judge said he expects the case to be appealed to the Washington Supreme Court. The state has 30 days to file an appeal. A call to the state attorney general's office seeking comment was not immediately returned.

The school district's lawsuit was filed in November 2006 against the state, the governor, the superintendent of public instruction and other officials.

Heavey, a former state legislator, said he believes lawmakers had been making progress toward a more equitable distribution of school money, but there is still some work to do. For example, most school districts get $32,746 from the state per teacher, although a few get as much as $4,000 more.

The state distributes school money based on the number of students in each district. Under a formula, the money is split among teachers, administrators and other staff, with employees paid within a range for each category.

"Because of the 'ranges,' there are 258 different funding levels for the state's 296 school districts," Heavey wrote.

He called the formula "arbitrary and wholly irrelevant" and said it was left over from an old system.
This is a tentative but satisfying victory for not just the WEA,who has pressed the suit forward, but for all Washington educators. If the lawsuit is appealed to the Supreme Court, which seems all but certain, and, bigger if, it succeeds, it becomes a matter of legislative remedy. That'll be interesting.

Update: In my sleep-deprived mind, I connected this lawsuit with the other state funding lawsuit, which is still in the works.

No comments: