In McCleary, the Supreme Court did not mandate the 'A+ Plan;' said the legislature should decide
Today The Seattle Times reports the Governor’s budget forecast for next year, which shows a $1.5 billion revenue increase, also shows there’s not enough money to “meet K-12 spending mandated by the state Supreme Court.” This characterization of what the Court ruled is wrong.
The Supreme Court has not mandated higher K-12 spending. The Court said K-12 policy decisions must be made by lawmakers. Page 3 of the ruling says:
“The State has not complied with its article IX, section 1 duty to make ample provision for the education of all children in Washington.”
It then cites what it calls a “promising” reform package (the A+ plan), but then concludes:
“This court defers to the legislature’s chosen means of discharging its article IX, section 1 duty ...” (Emphasis added.)
The Supreme Court defers to the Legislature “its chosen means of discharging” its constitutional obligations. This means the Legislature is in charge of carrying out its duty to fund education. The Court describes the A+ plan as “promising,” but it is only one of many possible solutions available to lawmakers.
Simply pouring more money into the current dysfunctional, monopoly system will not improve the schools, as past experience shows. In her first term, Governor Gregoire tried exactly this approach, and learned to her deep disappointment that:
“I came in here determined to make the system work better. To invest more money. I put a lot more money into K–12. But then you sit there and say, ‘Why have I not been able to get the result I set out to achieve?’” (“Frustrated Gregoire says ‘status quo does not work,’” The Seattle Times, January 15, 2011.)
Appropriating money and deciding on policy reforms which will improve the schools---these are the responsibility of the Legislature. The Supreme Court is not a super-legislature and cannot, and should not, order the Legislature to carry out any particular spending program. Our government is based upon a balance of power among co-equal branches of government -- executive, legislative and judicial.
Judges do not have the knowledge or experience to know the best way to improve the schools; that is what our elected representatives are for.