Latest McCleary Order: Supreme Court judges propose state education budgets for 2014-2018

January 9, 2014

                Today, Washington’s supreme court judges issued a court order that proposes education budgets for the school years 2014-18.  The judges gave only passing recognition to lawmakers and taxpayers for already adding $1.6 billion to public school spending, for a total of $15.2 billion, compared to the last state education budget. 

                The new level of funding in 2013-15 translates into a per student amount from the state of $7,279, a record high.  In addition, public schools receive on average another $3,400 per student from local taxpayers, federal taxpayers and other sources, for a total average of $11,400 per student, significantly more than most private school tuition, and the highest level of public education funding in state history. 

                The judges ruled these increases are not enough, and proposed detailed spending increases of their own.  Unlike elected lawmakers, however, the judges do not explain in their plan what programs would have to be cut to fund their massive levels of new spending. 

                Areas of the budget that could be cut to fund the judges’ education budget include programs for Higher Education, Health and Human Services, Government Operations, Natural Resources, Transportation and state employee pay and benefits.  Lawmakers and the public know that writing a budget involve trade-offs.  The justices in their order propose large increases in education spending, but provide no suggestions about how to fund them.

                 Another way to fund the supreme court’s proposed education spending increase is through a tax increase, such a raising the state property tax, boosting the sales tax, or creating a state income tax.  Again, lawmakers and the public know that large increases in the budget may mean increasing the financial burden government imposes on citizens, but the supreme court’s order includes no suggestions about what taxes the justices may want to increase.

                 The education budget the justices propose in their latest McCleary court order omits any consideration of the real-world trade-offs involved in responsibly spending public money.  Their proposed education budget reads like a standard lawmaker’s wish list, areas of public spending he would like to increase, but without identifying what program cuts or tax increases are needed to make it happen.

                 Legislators are elected to make the tough budget decisions necessary to provide essential services, including education, and then are accountable to the public for the results.  In contrast, in McCleary the supreme court justices seem to want all the benefit of ordering increases in state spending, without having to be accountable for making hard choices.  Instead, they are handing that job to lawmakers.

 

Comments

McCleary Decision

The Supreme Court did not propose an education budget as erroneously suggested in this post. What the Court did was reiterate what it ruled in 2012, that the Legislature continues to not meet its constitutional requirement to fully fund public schools. The court gave the Legislature until 2018 to meet that requirement. In last week's order the Court stated that the Legislature was not making satisfactory progress toward that deadline stating: "it is clear that the pace of progress must quicken." The only budget estimates have come from the State's own testimony. It was the Legislature that enacted HB 2261 and HB 2776 and it was the State that argued before the Supreme Court that by enacting this legislation it would meet the constitutional requirement. The Court merely said in essence, OK you have until 2018 to do that. Last week the Court told the Legislature it wasn't making sufficient progress. This is an historic time in our State's history and an even more historic tussle between the Supreme Court and the Legislature. Nobody is served by a misrepresentation of the facts in the landmark case.

Constitution

Let us accept the conclusion of the McCleary decision (I don't): the state does not spend enough on education. Which part of the state constitution says that the court is empowered to make budgets? More importantly, who do we ask to decide that this usurpation of legislative responsibility is unconstitutional? Unbelievable.

More Education Funding

Absolutely absurd. These Justices need to be removed from office the next time they run. There needs to be more accountability not more money thrown at the problem.

Maybe they could cut the

Maybe they could cut the salaries of the justices and other court funding.

Our Super-Legislature Has Spoken

Notice that the name of Justice James Johnson is conspicuously absent from the Washington Supreme Court's Order. We have one Justice who respects the separation of powers. Taxing and spending are legislative power, tied to the basic principle of no taxation without representation.