Politics & Government

State to appeal court ruling on school funding

SEATTLE - The State of Washington filed notice Thursday that it plans to appeal the recent decision in a basic education funding lawsuit to the state Supreme Court.

A King County judge ruled last month that the state is not fulfilling its constitutional obligation to fully pay for basic public education.

The lawsuit was filed by a coalition of school districts, parents, teachers and community organizations.

The notice from Attorney General Rob McKenna did not detail the reasons for the appeal, but a lawyer from his office said on the day Superior Court Judge John Erlick announced his decision that he thought both sides would find something to appeal.

Gov. Chris Gregoire said Thursday that the Legislature needs clear direction as it continues to work on school reform.

“I am pleased we will have direction from the state’s highest court as we work to ensure a world-class education for our children,” she said in a statement.

Thomas Ahearne, lawyer for the coalition, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

In his ruling, Erlick acknowledged the state’s efforts at reforming the way it pays for education and encouraged lawmakers to continue that work. But he said he based his decision on a state Supreme Court ruling from 30 years ago that found the state must amply provide for basic education. Relying so heavily on local levies fails that standard, he said.

The Legislature approved the next step in education funding reform this year, but because the state is facing a large budget deficit, lawmakers did not put a down payment on the new system.

The Legislature also approved a measure that would give local school districts the option to raise more money through levies.

The Legislature has committed to reform the way it pays for basic education by 2018.