Bellevue – The Washington State Supreme Court ruling against small schools in the case Wahkiakum School District v. Washington will hurt K-12 students—and classroom teachers—all around this state. And not just those in small schools. It’s almost as bad as the Court’s nonsensical opinion that the state’s capital gains income tax is an “excise” tax.
The opinion in Wahkiakum will magnify concerns that our Court has been radicalized by out-of-touch ideologues with no idea how normal people and families actually live.
The simplistic read will be that this opinion is a “gift” to the state’s teachers’ unions and other special interest groups.
But it’s not.
Imprisoning children in dilapidated school buildings will drive even more Washington families away from the public school system. They will choose private schools and home schooling instead. And our public school system will suffer.
While the opinion in Wahkiakum makes a few valid observations about how we fund school buildings in Washington state, it misreads both the letter and spirit of the Washington State Constitution’s Article IX—which defines the state’s obligations related to public education. No matter how many technical distinctions the Court tries to make, building and maintaining school facilities is an inextricable part of the “ample provision” for education of children in this state. Just ask any teacher or principal. Or school kid.
Trying to separate the construction and maintenance of school buildings from the operating costs of running schools, the Court is simply wrong.
Now, it falls to the legislature to clean up the mess created by Jay Inslee and his judge. A good place to start will be Rep. Joel McEntire’s HB 1044, which would clarify the process of funding construction and maintenance of school buildings in smaller school districts.
“Whether it’s that bill or another, the legislature must take action now where the State Supreme Court has failed,” says newly-elected WAGOP Chairman Jim Walsh. “We have to save basic education in Washington.”