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AGO 1957 No. 45 - April 08, 1957
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

TEACHERS' SALARIES INCREASE FOR THE 1957-1959 BIENNIUM

The increase in teachers' salaries provided for in Section 2, Chapter 301, Laws of 1957, must be increases paid over and above the salaries paid in the 1956-1957 school year, regardless of whether or not the electors of a district authorize an excess tax levy for teachers' salaries for the 1957-1958 and the 1958-1959 school years.

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                                                                    April 8, 1957

Honorable Lloyd J. Andrews
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Old Capitol Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 45


Dear Sir:

            You have requested an opinion from this office on the interpretation to be given a portion of Section 2, Chapter 301, Laws of 1957, relating to the appropriation for basic school support.  You have advised us that in a number of school districts, teachers' salaries were increased for the 1956-1957 school year from the proceeds of an excess tax levy authorized by the electors of the district.  We paraphrase your question as follows:

            Must the increase in teachers' salaries provided for in Section 2, Chapter 301, Laws of 1957, be increases paid over and above the salaries paid in 1956-1957, regardless of whether or not the electors of a district authorize an excess tax levy for teachers' salaries for the 1957-1958 and the 1958-1959 school years?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            We answer your question in the affirmative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Section 2, Chapter 301, Laws of 1957, makes the following appropriation from the current school fund:

            "For apportionment to counties for school districts in accordance with the provisions of Chapter 141, Laws of 1945, and Acts Amendatory or Supplementary thereto, and to carry out provisions of Section 31, Chapter 157, Laws of 1955, including kindergarten support:  PROVIDED, That the apportionment on the educational unit basis shall be $1,840.35 for 1957-1958 and $1,863.35 for 1958-1959:  PROVIDED, That $23,413,244.00 of this appropriation shall be used exclusively for the purpose of increasing the salaries of certificated employees of the several school districts in this state during the 1957-1959 biennium over the salaries paid in the 1956-1957 school year.  The said sum at the rate of $505.50 per certificated employee for 1957-1958 and $505.50 per certificated employee for 1958-1959.  The board of directors of each school district shall establish the basis for distributing the district's portion of the $23,413,244.00 allotted to it among the certificated employees employed by such district                        $236,374,677.00"

  (Emphasis supplied)

            It is a cardinal rule of statutory construction that the intention of the legislature as expressed in the language of the statute must be ascertained and given effect.  Graffell v. Honeysuckle, 30 Wn. (2d) 390, 399.  If the language of  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] the statute is plain and unambiguous there is no room for construction.  Martin v. Tollefson, 24 Wn. (2d) 211.

            In our opinion, the underlined portion of the above statute is unambiguous.  It impels the conclusion that the legislature intended that the salary increase provided for in the statute must be an increase "over the salaries paid in the 1956-1957 school year" regardless of whether or not the electors of the district authorize an excess tax levy for teachers' salaries for the 1957-1958 and the 1958-1959 school years.

            We recognize that this interpretation of the statute may lead to inconvenience and hardship in those school districts which financed an increase in teachers' salaries in 1956-1957 from the proceeds of an excess tax levy.  Unless the electors of the districts authorize a similar excess tax levy for the 1957-1958 and the 1958-1959 school years, it may be necessary to cut expenditures in other areas of education or increase the pupil load of teachers to secure the funds necessary to make up that portion of teachers' salaries paid in the 1956-1957 school year from the proceeds of the excess tax levy.  However, our supreme court has often held that such considerations do not justify a departure from the plain meaning of the statute.  Walker v. City of Spokane, 62 Wash. 312, 318; Davies v. City of Seattle, 67 Wash. 532, 535.

            To qualify the language of the statute by excepting from its operation any portion of the teachers' salaries paid in 1956-1957 from the proceeds of an excess tax levy would be unwarranted.  When construing a statute language should not be added to or subtracted from it unless this is imperatively required to make it a rational statute.  McKay v. Department of Labor and Industries, 180 Wash. 191.  The statute under consideration is rational on its face.

            We conclude that the increase in teachers' salaries provided for in Section 2, Chapter 301, Laws of 1957, must be increases  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] paid over and above the salaries paid in the 1956-1957 school year, regardless of whether or not the electors of a district authorize an excess tax levy for teachers' salaries for the 1957-1958 and the 1958-1959 school years.

            We trust that this opinion will be of assistance to you.

Yours very truly,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

 

ELVIN J. VANDEBERG
Assistant Attorney General

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