Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGLO 1975 No. 44 - April 23, 1975
AGO Opinion Header Image
Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- STATE ‑- SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION ‑- DISTRICTS ‑- SCHOOLS ‑- REGULATION OF ASSOCIATED STUDENT BODY FUNDS

(1) The state superintendent of public instruction may adopt a regulation pursuant to RCW 28A.58.115 defining the term "associated student body funds" in order to identify those moneys of an associated student body which are subject to school district budget laws and other state laws relating to school district funds, including, RCW 43.09.240 and RCW 28A.59.110.

(2) The state superintendent of public instruction may also adopt a regulation under RCW 28A.58.115 authorizing school districts to establish one or more ASB petty cash funds into which limited amounts of ASB funds could be transferred from time to time from the school district treasury by warrants made payable to the order of the principal of the school involved as custodian of such fund.

                                                                  - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                   April 23, 1975

Honorable Albert Bauer
State Representative, 49th District
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington 98504                                                                                                                                     Cite as:  AGLO 1975 No. 44

Dear Representative Bauer:

            By recent letter you requested our opinion on the following questions pertaining to the expenditure and administration of school district associated student body funds:

            (1) May the state superintendent of public instruction adopt a regulation pursuant to RCW 28A.58.115 defining the term "associated student body funds" in order to identify those moneys of an associated student body (ASB) which are subject to school district budget laws and other state laws relating to school district funds?

            (2) Must any regulations promulgated by the superintendent of public instruction pursuant to RCW 28A.58.115, insofar as they deal with the manner in which ASB funds are to be physically handled, be in conformity with the requirements of RCW 43.09.240 and RCW 28A.59.110?

            (3) Assuming an affirmative answer to question (2), does RCW 28A.58.115 empower the superintendent of public instruction to adopt a rule which would authorize school districts to establish one or more ASB petty cash funds (depending upon the number of ASB organizations existing within a district) into which limited amounts of ASB funds could be transferred from time to time from the school district treasury by warrants made payable to the order of the principal of the school involved as custodian of such a fund?

            We answer each of the foregoing questions in the affirmative for the reasons set forth in the following analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            By its enactment of § 1, chapter 52, Laws of 1973, the legislature, in apparent recognition of a need for  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] certain controls over the activities and operations of student body organizations in the public schools, directed the state superintendent of public instruction to promulgate rules and regulations to that effect.  The full text of this statute, now codified as RCW 28A.58.115, is as follows:

            "As used in this section, an 'associated student body' means the formal organization of the students of a school formed with the approval of and regulation by the board of directors of the school district in conformity to the rules and regulations promulgated by the superintendent of public instruction.

            "The superintendent of public instruction, after consultation with appropriate school organizations and students, shall promulgate rules and regulations to designate the powers and responsibilities of the boards of directors of the school districts of the state of Washington in developing efficient administration, management, and control of moneys, records, and reports of the associated student bodies organized in the public schools of the state."

            Thereafter, in AGO 1974 No. 21 [[to Robert V. Graham, State Auditor on October 23, 1974]], copy enclosed, we used the term "student body funds" to describe

            ". . . the funds of any organized, officially sanctioned student body associations existing within a school district; i.e., the kinds of student body organizations which are now covered by so much of § 1, chapter 52, Laws of 1973 (RCW 28A.58.115) as defines the phrase 'associated student body' to mean:

            "'. . . the formal organization of the students of a school formed with the approval of and regulation by the board of directors of the school district in conformity to the rules and regulations promulgated by the superintendent of public instruction.'"

            We then went on in that opinion to characterize such an organization as ". . . an arm and agency of the school district . . ." and, for that reason, we concluded  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] that its funds must be regarded as funds of the district which are subject to school district budget laws1/ and other laws relating to school district funds.  However, having so concluded we nevertheless explained that this does not mean that the funds of an associated student body organization must all be placed in the school district's general operating fund.  Citing RCW 28A.58.115,supra, we instead said that:

            "Under this statute the state superintendent of public instruction may, by regulation, provide for the creation of a 'student body fund' as an operating fund of each school district. . . ."

            Your present questions involve further aspects of the state superintendent's rule‑making power under this 1973 enactment.

            Question (1):

            First you have asked whether it would be possible for the state superintendent, in his regulations, to define the term "associated student body funds" so as to identify those moneys of an associated student body organization (ASB) which are subject to the constraints of the laws governing school district budgets and the like.

            Of course, the actual function of any such definitional rule would be to spell out what moneys of an ASB are subject to the statutorily required substantive regulations themselves; but this would, in turn, also identify the funds and revenue sources which, under the reasoning of AGO 1974 No. 21,supra, are subject to the laws regulating school district budgets and the like. In other words, by defining the term "associated student body funds" for the purposes of his regulations, the state superintendent would also be supplying the basic criteria to be applied in determining what funds are "student body funds" as we used that term in our earlier opinion.

            Although the legislature in RCW 28A.58.115, supra, did define the term "associated student body" it did not identify in specific terms the "moneys. . . of the associated student bodies" which are to be subject to the rules and regulations of the state superintendent ‑ nor do we think it was legally necessary for the legislature to have done so.   [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] It is a common and judicially recognized practice for administrative agencies to define or otherwise attribute meaning to terminology used in a statute in the course of exercising rule‑making and administrative powers.  In the event that statutory words and terms are of a kind which permit or compel the exercise of administrative discretion, such discretion may be exercised within the framework of applicable statutory provisions.  See,Senior Cit. L. v. Depts. Soc. Sec., 38 Wn.2d 142, 156, 228 P.2d 478 (1951).2/

            The practical necessity for some definition of "moneys . . . of the associated student bodies" or an equivalent term such as "associated student body funds" within the rules to be adopted pursuant to RCW 28A.58.115 is obvious.  The purpose of such a definition would be that of distinguishing those funds which are subject to the rules (a) from other funds of a school district which are subject to other or differing kinds of administration, management and control; and (b) from private funds raised by and/or belonging to students that are not deemed by the state superintendent to have been intended by the  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] legislature to be subject to governmental control.3/

             Accordingly, for the above stated reasons we answer your first question in the affirmative.

            Question (2):

            Your second question in whether the rules of the state superintendent adopted pursuant to RCW 28A.58.115, supra, insofar as those rules govern the physical handling of "associated student body funds," must conform with the requirement imposed by RCW 43.09.240 that public funds be deposited with the treasurer of the taxing district,4/ and with the requirement of RCW 28A.59.110 that money of a first class school district be paid out only upon orders for warrants.5/

             [[Orig. Op. Page 6]]   The applicable legal principle, as previously indicated, is that the rules of an administrative agency must be written within the framework of any governing statutes; such rules may not amend or change enactments of the legislature.

            We find no legitimate basis within the provisions of RCW 28A.58.115 or any other statute upon which to premise an exemption of moneys of an associated student body from the general statutory requirements applicable to other funds of a school district.  Accord, AGO 1974 No. 21,supra, in which (as above noted) we earlier concluded that the revenues of an associated student body which constitute revenues of a school district (i.e., those moneys subject to the provisions of and rules to be adopted pursuant to RCW 28A.58.115) must be collected, budgeted and expended in accordance with the statutes prescribing school district budgetary requirements.

            We likewise now must conclude that the rules and regulations thus adopted by the superintendent of public instruction must also grant recognition to RCW 43.09.240 and RCW 28A.58.110,supra, and thus require that the deposit and payment out of the county treasury of "associated student body funds" as defined therein be in compliance with the provisions of both of those statutes.

            Question (3):

            Your third question assumes the foregoing answer to question (2) and asks:

            ". . . does RCW 28A.58.115 empower the superintendent of public instruction to adopt a rule which would authorize school districts to establish one or more ASB petty cash funds (depending upon the number of ASB organizations existing within a district) into which limited amounts of ASB funds could be transferred from time to time from the county treasury by warrants made payable to the order of the principal of the school involved as custodian of such a fund?"

            We answer this question in the affirmative on the same basis as we earlier concluded, in AGO 1974 No. 21, supra, that:

            "Under this statute the state superintendent of public instruction may, by regulation, provide for the creation of a 'student body fund' as an operating fund of each school district. . . ."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 7]]   The rationale inherent in this conclusion is that although the state superintendent may not authorize practices which conflict with statutory provisions governing funds of a school district, he is empowered by RCW 28A.58.115 to authorize fiscal procedures providing for the efficient administration, management and control of associated student body funds which supplement existing statutory requirements.

            We recognize that a petty cash fund as visualized by this question differs materially in its purpose and function from an operating fund.  The function of a petty cash fund extends beyond bookkeeping and accounting procedures; instead, such a fund involves the holding of moneys for the purpose of paying relatively minor claims with cash.  However, it still seems to us that the rationale supporting the authorization of a student body operating fund in each school district is equally supportive of the authorization of associated student body petty cash funds.

            A regulation authorizing the establishment of such funds would not conflict with our answer to your second question because all of the requirements of RCW 43.09.240 and RCW 28A.59.110, supra, would be met.  Every officer and employee of a school district whose duty it is to collect or receive moneys of an associated student body would first have deposited such receipts with the county treasurer6/ as required by RCW 43.09.240.  Likewise, all receipts so deposited would be paid out of the treasury by warrant for the purposes of meeting authorized expenses as required, in the case of first class school districts, by RCW 28A.59.110.  Therefore, the establishment and maintenance of a petty cash fund in the manner you have described would be in conformance with the statutory requirements noted, supplemental thereto, and, thus, reasonably within the intent and purposes of the rule‑making powers granted by RCW 28A.58.115.

            Accordingly, in direct answer to your third question it is our opinion that RCW 28A.58.115,supra, does empower the superintendent of public instruction to adopt a rule which would authorize school districts to establish one or more associated student body petty cash funds (depending upon the number of ASBs existing within the district) into which limited amounts of associated  [[Orig. Op. Page 8]] student body moneys are transferred from time to time from the school district treasury by warrants payable to the order of the principal of the school involved as custodian of the fund.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General

ROBERT E. PATTERSON
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/E.g., RCW 28A.65.095 and RCW 28A.65.170.

2/Or, as stated in the converse by our supreme court in Kitsap-Mason Dairymen v. Tax Comm'n, 77 Wn.2d 812, 815, 467 P.2d 312 (1970):

            "An agency may not legislate under the guise of the rule making power.  Rules must be written within the framework and policy of the applicable statutes.  State ex rel. West v. Seattle, 50 Wn.2d 94, 309 P.2d 751 (1957).  They may not amend or change enactments of the legislature.  Pringle v. State, 77 Wn.2d 569, 464 P.2d 425 (1970), Pierce County v. State, 66 Wn.2d 728, 404 P.2d 1002 (1965)."

            Interpretive rules and regulations of an administrative agency are generally entitled to great weight in resolving doubtful meanings, provided, of course, that such rules do not violate the foregoing principle and amend or change the enactments of the legislature.  See,Pringle v. State andPierce County v. State, supra.

3/Of course, it is elementary that the usual and ordinary meaning of words and terms used in a statute must be resorted to first in the course of determining legislative intent.   In the event the words and terms used do not possess a generally accepted meaning, the meaning may be ascertained by considering the context; having recourse to standard reference works; giving effect to established administrative interpretations; applying judicial precedents; and making use of other legal permissible intrinsic and extrinsic aids to statutory construction.  Senior Cit. L. v. Dept. Soc. Sec.,supra.

4/". . .

            "Every public officer and employee, whose duty it is to collect or receive payments due or for the use of the public shall deposit such moneys collected or received by him with the treasurer of the taxing district once every twenty-four consecutive hours."  (RCW 43.09.240.)

            In the case of school districts, the "treasurer of the taxing district" referred to is the county treasurer. See, RCW 28A.48.100.

5/" Money of such school districts [i.e., first class school districts] shall be paid out only upon orders for warrants signed by the president, or a majority of the board of directors and countersigned by the secretary:  . . ."  (RCW 28A.59.110.)

6/As treasurer for the school district.  See, RCW 28A.48.100.

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo