Last month the Washington State Supreme Court held a hearing to determine the level of the state government’s compliance with the court’s 2012 McCleary ruling.
In that decision the court ruled the state had failed to meet its duty under the state constitution to provide school districts with enough resources to cover the costs of a basic education. Since 2014 the state government has been held in contempt of court for failing to come up with a legislative fix.
The state budget passed this year provided $7.3 billion in additional K-12 spending over the next four years. But public school interest groups say that’s not enough. The Washington Education Association has led the charge, lobbying for class sizes of 15-17 students in K-3, starting teacher salaries of $54,000 and annual cost of living increases.
The justices appeared unconvinced that the state had fulfilled its obligations, but they were also frustrated by the McCleary plaintiffs failure to specify how much money they think is necessary.
Two dozen WEA activists were present for the hearing, and that was no accident. The state union received $400,000 from NEA’s Ballot Measures and Legislative Crises Fund this year for the McCleary campaign, to be spent on communications as well as “opinion and opposition research.”
WEA is one of the few NEA state affiliates that thrived over the past five years, increasing active membership by almost 8 percent. Washington ranks 25th in teacher salaries, according to NEA figures.
It’s a tribute to solidarity that teachers in Mississippi, South Dakota and Oklahoma contributed a portion of their dues for a campaign to boost salaries in Washington.