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AGO 1962 No. 154 - August 13, 1962
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington


OFFICES AND OFFICERS ‑- STATE ‑- BOARD OF EDUCATION ‑- STATE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION ‑- APPROVAL OF SITES

The state board of education has the responsibility and authority under existing state law and rules and regulations adopted thereunder to consider the site on which a school building is to be constructed when determining whether or not a school district which applies for state financial assistance is entitled thereto.

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                                                                 August 13, 1962

Honorable Clayton Farrington
State Representative, 22nd District
517 East Fourteenth
Olympia, Washington

Honorable Victor F. DeGarmo
State Senator, 22nd District|
Capitol Apartments
Olympia, Washington

                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 61-62 No. 154

Gentlemen:

            By letter previously acknowledged you requested the opinion of this office on the following question:

            Does the state board of education have the responsibility and/or authority under existing state law to consider the site on which a school building is to be constructed when determining whether or not a school district is entitled to state matching funds for construction of that building?

            We answer your question in the affirmative as explained in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The state board of education is an agency created by the legislature and, therefore, has only those powers expressly given it by statute or those necessarily implied therefrom.  See,State ex rel. Eastvold v. Maybury, 49 Wn. (2d) 533, 304 P. (2d) 663 (1956).

            Since the passage of the first act by our legislature in 1947 relating to the state school building aid program (see, chapter 278, Laws of 1947), the state board of education has been vested with the power to  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] prescribe rules and regulations governing the terms and conditions under which state funds will be made available to school districts for the construction of school plant facilities.  See § 2, chapter 278, Laws of 1947; § 7, chapter 234, Laws of 1957; § 7, chapter 8, Laws of 1959, Ex. Sess.; § 7, chapter 3, Laws of 1961, Ex. Sess.  For the sake of brevity and for ease of reference, we will cite merely the 1961 provision which, as codified in RCW 28.47.732, reads as follows:

            "In allotting the state funds provided by RCW 28.47.720 through 28.47.750, the state board of education shall:

            "(1)Prescribe rules and regulations governing the administration,control, terms, conditions, and disbursement of allotments to school districts to assist them in providing school plant facilities;

            "(2)Approve, whenever the board deems such action advisable, allotments to districts that apply for state assistance;

            "(3) Authorize the payment of approved allotments by warrant of the state treasurer; and

            "(4) In the event that the amount of state assistance applied for pursuant to the provisions hereof exceeds the funds available for such assistance during any biennium, make allotments on the basis of the urgency of need for school facilities in the districts that apply for assistance or prorate allotments among such districts in conformity with procedures and regulations applicable thereto which shall be established by the board."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Under the authority of the 1947 act, the state board, on April 21, 1947, promulgated the following rule or regulation regarding school sites:

            "Approval of site by the State Superintendent's office shall be a prerequisite to a state assistance grant."

            In March, 1957, the board adopted a revision of the rule which reads as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            "Sites for proposed school building facilities to be financed cooperatively with state funds must be approved by the State Board of Education."

            The foregoing rule may now be found in the booklet "Procedures, Policies and Regulations Governing State Aid Programs for Construction of Public School Facilities" published in July, 1959, and amended in June, 1961.  In other words, site approvalby the state board of education has been required under its rules since 1957 and, prior to that time, back to 1947, approval of the site by the office of the state superintendent was required.

            In addition to the foregoing, the 1961 act (see § 12, chapter 3, Laws of 1961, Ex. Sess. [RCW 28.47.742]) like other state assistance acts including the one passed in 1947 (see § 4, chapter 278, Laws of 1947), contains the following provision relating toapplications for state funds for school building purposes:

            "All applications by school districts for state assistance in providing school plant facilities shall be made to the superintendent of public instruction in conformity with rules and regulations which shall be prescribed by the state board of education.  Studies and surveys shall be conducted by the state board for the purpose of securing information relating to (a) the kind and extent of the school plant facilities required and the urgency of need for such facilities in districts that seek state assistance, (b) the ability of such districts to provide capital funds by local effort, (c)the need for improvement of school administrative units and school attendance areas among or within such districts, and (d) any other pertinent matters."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            The supreme court of this state has often stated that where the language of a statute is plain, unambiguous and well understood according to its natural and ordinary sense and meaning,the statute itself furnishes a rule of construction beyond which a court cannot go.  Seattle v. Ross, 54 Wn. (2d) 655, 344 P. (2d) 216 (1959); Parkhurst v. Everett, 51 Wn. (2d) 292, 318 P. (2d) 327 (1957).

            This rule is obviously applicable to RCW 28.47.742, supra, and the same provision found in earlier school construction bond acts.  After a school district has made application to the state for assistance in its building program, the state board has been directed by the legislature to make studies and surveys "for the purpose of securing information relating (among other things) to ". . . (c) the need for improvement of school administrative units and school attendance areas among or within such districts . . ."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            We further direct your attention to the provisions of RCW 28.47.744 under which the state board has been empowered, in consultation with the Washington state department of health, to guide and provide information to local districts regarding, among other things:

            ". . . (c) standards for use in determining the selection and development of school sites and in designing, planning, and constructing school buildings to the end that the health, safety, and educational well-being and development of school children will be served; . . ."

            The legislature has also directed in RCW 28.47.746 that the state board shall furnish school districts seeking state assistance ". . . consultatory and advisory service in connection with the development of school building programs and the planning of school plant facilities."

            On December 19, 1960, this office issued an informal opinion to the state superintendent in which we were requested to determine whether after the state board had approvedone site for a school, it could approve additional sites which met state board standards.  We answered this question in the affirmative on the basis of the provisions of the 1959 bond act which are identical with those found in chapter 3, Laws of 1961, Ex. Sess.  Therein we said:

            "It is our opinion after a careful examination of the entire act controlling this matter, and in particular the statute set forth above, that the legislature intended tovest wide discretion in the State Board of Education in respect to the allotment of state funds to school districts for the construction of school plant facilities.

            "Furthermore, we are not aware of any restriction on the power of the Boardto approve one or more sites for the proposed construction of a school plant if the same is properly selected and is in accord with the legislative standards prescribed and the rules and regulations adopted and promulgated by the Board under the authority of the foregoing act. . . ." (Emphasis supplied.)

            After reading and considering the statutes cited above and the rules and regulations of the state board regarding this matter, we trust you will agree that there can be but one answer to your question.  The state board of education has the responsibility and authority  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] under existing state law and rules and regulations adopted thereunder to consider the site on which a school building is to be constructed when determining whether or not a school district which applies for state assistance is entitled to state matching funds for construction of its buildings.

            While we recognize your inquiry was prompted by the situation which has developed regarding the location for the new high school in the Tenino district, we have not made reference thereto because, as you realize, our duty is strictly limited to interpreting the law, leaving policy questions to be decided by the official or board charged by the legislature with making the decisions in individual cases.  As stated above, in this case the responsibility and/or authority has been vested in the state board of education.  It should be pointed out however that we have been advised that no formal application of the Tenino district has been considered as yet by the state board.

            We trust our review of this matter will provide you with the information you desired concerning the existing law on this subject.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

ROBERT J. DORAN
Assistant Attorney General

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