Citing crowded classrooms, court imposes contempt sanctions

August 13, 2015

OLYMPIA — Weary of the Legislature’s hollow promises on class size and other basic education components, the state Supreme Court today imposed a $100,000 per day penalty on the state until a concrete plan is developed to fully fund schools by the 2018 school year.

It urged Gov. Inslee to convene another special legislative session to craft a plan and end the fines.

The court cited an “ongoing violation of (the Legislature’s) constitutional obligation to amply provide for public education,” and said “the time has come for the court to impose sanctions.”

The court said that while the Legislature came up with some money to reduce K-3 class sizes, the state is not on track to meet the goal of 17 students in those grades by 2018. It noted that the recently adopted state budget falls short of the Legislature’s own K-3 class-size reduction goal by over $300 million.

“The state has presented no plan as to how it intends to achieve full compliance in this area by 2018, other than the promise that it will take up the matter in the 2017-19 biennial budget,” the court said.

Nor did the Legislature explain how the state would pay for the additional classrooms the schools would need, or find some 4,000 teachers needed to cover those new classes.

The court was silent on grade 4-12 class sizes. It neither affirmed nor rejected the legality of the Legislature’s suspension of Initiative 1351’s class-size standards for upper grades, thereby sending a sign that the issue would need to be considered separately.

Read the full court order at

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