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Supreme Court lifts daily $100,000 fine against state in education funding case

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The Washington Supreme Court says lawmakers have successfully finalized a long-running case on state funding of basic education.

In a Thursday order, the justices said the high court would no longer retain jurisdiction in the case, and that daily sanctions of $100,000 that have been accruing since August 2015 — already tagged to be spent on education — will be lifted.

"The McCleary case is officially over," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal. "But please remember, this case was only about using State funds (not local) to fund an old system. Now it is time to invest in education for the future. McCleary stabilized the foundation, now it's time to remodel the 130 year old house."

The state had been in contempt of court since 2014 for lack of progress on a 2012 state Supreme Court ruling known as the McCleary ruling that found that K-12 school funding was inadequate.

In November, the court said a plan passed by the Legislature last year which included statewide property tax increase earmarked for education satisfied its earlier ruling, but justices took issue with the fact that the salary component wasn't fully funded until September 2019.

This year, lawmakers expedited that timeframe to Sept. 1, 2018.

Gov. Inslee said the court's decision does not end the efforts to provide schools with the resources they need.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision affirms that, at long last, our Legislature is providing the funding necessary to cover the basic costs of our K-12 schools. Reversing decades of underfunding has been among the heaviest lifts we’ve faced in recent years and required difficult and complex decisions, but I’m incredibly proud and grateful for all those who came together on a bipartisan basis to get this job done.

“We know that our children need more than just a basic education. This is not the end of our efforts to ensure schools are able to provide students everything they need to succeed and thrive. There is more to come as we focus on early education, career-connected learning, special education and additional supports for struggling or at-risk students. I look forward to continuing our bipartisan collaboration and success in making Washington’s schools the best.”

Here is the ruling:

(1) The monetary penalty of $100,000 per day is lifted, and the court approves the
expenditure of funds deposited into the dedicated McCleary penalty account for the support of basic
K-12 education.
(2) The request for prejudgment interest on sanctions is denied.
(3) This court's retention of jurisdiction pursuant to McCleary v. State, 173 Wn.2d 477,269
P.3d 227 (2012), is terminated.

Click here to see the full decision from the Supreme Court.

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