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AGO 1962 No. 122 - April 24, 1962
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


DISTRICTS ‑- SCHOOLS ‑- APPROPRIATION FOR INCREASES IN TEACHERS' SALARIES ‑- FULL-TIME CERTIFICATED EMPLOYEES ‑- EMERGENCY CERTIFICATES.

In order to qualify for funds appropriated by the legislature in 1961 to the office of the state superintendent for distribution to public schools, a school district must certify that all full-time certificated employees, including full-time teachers holding emergency certificates, are being paid not less than $4,200 per year.

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                                                                   April 24, 1962

Honorable Frank "Buster" Brouillet
Chairman, Interim Committee on Education
Meany Hall Room 111-B
University of Washington
Seattle 5, Washington

                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 61-62 No. 122

Dear Sir:

            This is written in reply to your letter previously acknowledged in which you requested an opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            In order to qualify for funds appropriated by the legislature in 1961 to the office of the state superintendent of public instruction for distribution to the public schools, must a school district certify that "all full-time certificated employees [including teachers holding emergency certificates] are being paid not less than $4,200 per year . . ."?

            We answer your question in the affirmative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            During the 1961 Extraordinary Session, our legislature passed Engrossed Senate Bill 1 (as amended by the free conference committee) which is the state's general appropriation act.  See chapter 26, Laws of 1961, Ex. Sess.  Certain provisions of the appropriation made therein to the state superintendent for increases in teachers' salaries have been considered previously by this office.  See, AGO 61-62 No. 84; 61-62 No. 34.  However neither of these opinions covers the specific subject matter of your present inquiry.

            One of the limitations placed by the legislature upon the expenditures of the state superintendent's appropriation is found in the following  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] proviso:

            ". . . PROVIDED, That no part of this appropriation shall be distributed to any school district until it has certified to the superintendent of public instruction thatall full time certificated employees are being paid not less than $4,200 per year: . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)  Chapter 26, Laws of 1961, Ex. Sess., p. 19.

            It is a basic rule of statutory construction that in arriving at the intent of the legislature, the first resort of the courts is to the context and subject matter of the legislation, because the intention of the lawmakers is to be deduced, if possible, from the words used.  Hatzenbuhler v. Harrison, 49 Wn. (2d) 691, 306 P. (2d) 745 (1957);Guinness v. State, 40 Wn. (2d) 677, 246 P. (2d) 433 (1952); St. Paul and Tacoma Lumber Company v. State, 40 Wn. (2d) 347, 243 P. (2d) 474 (1952).  Further, where the language of an act is plain, free from ambiguity, and devoid of uncertainty, there is no room for construction.  See, also,Parkhurst v. Everett, 51 Wn. (2d) 292, 318 P. (2d) 327 (1957);In re Baker's Estate, 49 Wn. (2d) 609, 304 P. (2d) 1951 (1956).

            Applying these rules, it appears that it was the intent of the legislature in inserting the above proviso in the appropriation act to require school districts of this state to pay all full-time certificated employees at least $4,200 per year as a condition precedent to participating in the distribution of state funds.  There is nothing in the proviso which would lead us to believe the legislature intended to treat teachers holding emergency or temporary certificates any differently than teachers holding standard general teaching certificates.  On the contrary, by the use of the term "all," it appears the legislature intended the minimum salary requirement be applicable to every full-time certificated employee irrespective of the particular type of certificate.  If the legislature intended any distinction should be made because of the type of certificate, it should have expressed such intent.  Our court has stated that legislative intent not expressed in some appropriate manner has no legal existence.  State ex rel. Gebhardt v. Superior Court, 15 Wn. (2d) 673, 131 P. (2d) 943 (1942).

            Accordingly, it is the opinion of this office that in order to qualify for funds appropriated by the legislature in 1961 to the state superintendent for distribution to the public schools, a school district must certify thatall full-time certificated employees, including teachers holding emergency certificates, are being paid not less  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] than $4,200 per year.

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

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

ROBERT J. DORAN
Assistant Attorney General

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