The Supreme Court should get more directly involved in the state’s necessary effort to reform the school-funding system.

Share story

THE Legislature has failed again to fix the unconstitutional way the state pays for education. Time for the state Supreme Court to get more directly involved.

Although the governor is expected to call a second 30-day overtime session when the first one ends on Tuesday, he should refrain. That would delay the inevitable: the Washington Supreme Court’s next ruling calling out the Legislature for not following its orders to repair the inequities in Washington public schools.

This editorial board does not come to this position lightly. Leaders in the Legislature have shown they are incapable of cutting a deal on education funding and finishing the work required by the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.

In 2012, the justices agreed with a coalition of parents, school districts, teachers and community groups that the way Washington pays for its public schools is unconstitutional, because that funding is not ample, is overreliant on local levies and doesn’t address inequity among schools and districts.

Leaders on education policy say they have made a lot of progress this spring on a framework to make Washington’s public schools more equitably funded. However, the budget negotiators are nowhere near agreement on a state budget to pay for that deal. Given their standoff, another 30-day special session is unlikely to get them there.

If the logjam doesn’t break by Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee should let the Supreme Court supply the extra incentive the Legislature needs. The court has a number of options, if it is not satisfied: from invalidating tax breaks to free up billions of dollars for education to canceling school for fall 2018 until the Legislature finishes its work on education reform.

Five months after convening in Olympia, budget writers from both houses aren’t even negotiating.

Leaders in the GOP-controlled Senate — Sens. John Braun, Dino Rossi and Mark Schoesler — have refused to meet with Democratic leaders in the House to discuss their budget proposals.

Leaders in the Democratic-controlled House — Reps. Pat Sullivan, Frank Chopp and Kristine Lytton — have some proposals for new taxes to pay for additional education funding, but they refuse to bring those ideas to the floor to show they have the votes.

At this point, neither side can say they have an honest budget proposal, because neither chamber has voted on a budget that will pay for the educational system the state needs.

This political posturing, this obstinance, is an obstacle to Washington student success. All deserve access to a quality education that prepares them for college or career.

Lawmakers know more money is needed. They know it will cost more to attract and retain great teachers across the state, to stop foisting state-education duties onto local levies, and to make sure money is aimed at helping struggling children and schools improve.

Unless lawmakers can show they are well down a path to a budget agreement by Tuesday, Inslee should acknowledge the hard work of some lawmakers on the policy questions. Then he should send them all home, after they pass a bill that would let the state continue to function without a detailed new budget agreement for the next two years.

Lawmakers have had their chance — years of chances — to fix the tax system and find more money for education. In a report to the Supreme Court last year, they said they would meet all summer and work out a deal before the Legislature got back to work in January. They failed.

Washington’s school children have waited long enough for the Legislature to wake up, heed the Washington Constitution and amply fund all our public schools.

Time’s up.