Five former Governors warn state Supreme Court about holding Legislature in contempt

August 5, 2014

Today The Seattle Times reports that five former Washington state governors have asked the state Supreme Court to delay its September 3 hearing about holding the Legislature in contempt for supposedly not complying with its 2012 McCleary decision. The former governors---Dan Evans, John Spellman, Mike Lowry, Gary Locke and Chris Gregoire—warn that levying contempt charges and sanctions against elected lawmakers now could derail the chances for reaching a bipartisan agreement on education funding in the 2015 legislative session.

The former governors say the Court should postpone the September 3 hearing until after the next legislative session to give lawmakers the best chance to reach a solution not dictated by the Court. The governors’ brief was written with Rob McKenna, former state attorney general and candidate for governor. In their brief the governors say:

“Without that crucial legitimacy and compromise [from the legislature], long-term funding is far from guaranteed and the State could end up right back where it started.”

The Legislature has responded to the McCleary decision and provided significant funding increases to K-12 schools. In the 2013-15 budget, the Legislature provided public schools $1.7 billion more than in the previous budget. Lawmakers dramatically increased per student funding for K-12 schools, from $6,782 per student in 2012-13 to $7,646 in 2014-15, as shown on page 6 here.

The Legislature has provided all school districts across the state significant increases in revenue. For example, the Seattle School District’s 2014-15 budget has increased to $689 million, a $50 million, or 7.8% increase, over last year’s budget. Per student funding in Seattle is at an all-time high of $13,795, more than the tuition at the University of Washington. (UW tuition is $12,394.)