OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- Washington state officials were back before the state Supreme Court on Wednesday for a hearing on the ongoing battle surrounding the state's constitutional requirement to properly fund basic education.
The state wants the court to remove a contempt order and $100,000-a-day sanctions that have been accumulating for more than a year and which are supposed to be set aside into an education account. The group that sued over the funding wants the court to escalate pressure on lawmakers.
Rep. Chad Magendanz, a Republican from Issaquah who has been part of an education funding task force this year, said that he believes lawmakers have shown enough good faith effort that they should no longer be held in contempt by the state Supreme Court.
"It's laudable to try to make sure the pressure is on the Legislature to ensure we deliver by the 2018 deadline," he said before a Wednesday hearing before the court. "But the threat of closing schools two years in advance of the 2018 deadline is premature. It's putting kids in a situation where they feel like fish in a blender. They're waiting for this consequence that certainly won't be in their best interest."
Stephanie McCleary, a named plaintiff in the education funding case against the state, said she would like to be hopeful, but noted that it's been nearly 10 years since the lawsuit was filed.
After Wednesday's hearing before the state Supreme Court, McCleary said that what she heard from the state in the courtroom "sounds like more of the same."
"There's a plan to a plan," she said. "They don't really to give us to be hopeful right now."
Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn says that shutting down the schools should be an option the state Supreme Court should consider as it weighs whether additional sanctions against the state are necessary in the ongoing battle over education funding.
After a hearing before the court Tuesday, Dorn said that "something drastic has to happen."
"You heard it in there, 'We promise, we're gonna do it, yeah we're gonna do it.' And just putting kids off," he said. "So yeah, I believe something dramatic has got to happen."
Attorneys for the state of Washington told the state Supreme Court that they are on the path to comply with a court order to fully fund the state's basic education system, and that a contempt order and sanctions should be lifted.
But an attorney for the group that sued the state told the justices Wednesday that the state has made such unfilled promises before, and compared the ongoing debate to a merry go round.
The lawsuit against the state was brought by a coalition of school districts, parents, teachers and education groups - known as the McCleary case for the family named in the suit.
The high Court first ruled in 2012 that lawmakers were not meeting their constitutional responsibility to fully pay for basic education. The court gave the Legislature until 2018 to fix the problem, and it ultimately found the state in contempt in 2014.
Since the 2012 ruling, lawmakers have spent more than $2 billion to address issues raised in the lawsuit.
There's no time frame on when the state Supreme Court may rule on whether to increase pressure on lawmakers or to remove a contempt order and sanctions.
Copyright 2016 KING