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November 12, 2009
State Supreme Court unanimously supports school funding system

Ruling reverses lower court’s decision regarding funding formulas

OLYMPIA -- The Washington Supreme Court today unanimously ruled that variations on the way teachers and school staff are paid across districts does not violate Washington’s Constitution.

“The Supreme Court upheld the state’s formula for funding Washington school districts,” said Attorney General Rob McKenna. “Our attorneys pointed out, and the court agreed, that school funding decisions should be made by elected legislators, not litigators.”

The court’s 9-0 decision, written by Justice James Johnson, reverses a King County Superior Court ruling in a 2006 case brought by the Federal Way School District. The district, along with individual teachers, parents and students, claimed the state’s system of allocating money to school districts was unfair. King County Superior Court Judge Heavey ruled in favor of the district in 2007 and the Attorney General’s Office appealed.

In writing the decision to reverse the trial court, Justice James Johnson held that the Legislature’s funding and formulas are constitutional, and reiterated the Court’s traditional deference to the Legislature to work out the details of education programming and funding. Furthermore, the district did not show that the state was failing to amply fund education.

“The legislature has acted well within its constitutional authority and its duty to make ample provision for the education of children and to provide for a general and uniform system of education under article IX,” he added.

The opinion provides a historical outline of funding decisions and says pay disparities have narrowed considerably since 1977, when the legislature created the Washington Basic Education Act that established the funding system.


Media Contacts: Janelle Guthrie, Director of Communications, (360) 586-0725
Kristin Alexander, Media Relations Manager, (206) 464-6432,

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