Class Size, the Court and Contempt
August 3, 2015
After cutting $2 billion in funding for Initiative 1351class-size reductions, legislators told the state Supreme Court last week they’re on a “trajectory” to fully fund basic education, and that they should therefore no longer be held in contempt by the Court.
But Tom Ahearne, attorney for the coalition of parents, teachers, school districts and community groups who successfully sued the state, says politicians are procrastinating - not complying - with previous Court orders.
Here are excerpts from the plaintiffs’ response:
Although the State’s legislature began the immediate phase-in of … K-3 class size reductions… [in 2010], it did not start phasing in the … corresponding grade 4-12 class size reductions that year.
Or the next year (2011). Or the next (2012). Or next (2013).
The legislative authority of the State, however, is not vested solely in the Washington legislature. Washington’s voters can exercise that exact same legislative authority by passing an Initiative.
And in 2014, that’s what Washington voters did. They enacted a phase-in of … 25 students for grade 4-12 classrooms. …
The State had expressly told voters in the Voters Pamphlet that ‘The fiscal impact of this section is $2billion for the 2015-2017 biennium.’ The State’s budget documents reaffirmed that $2 billion cost.
But the budget enacted and signed on June 30 did not provide any of that $2 billion for the grade 4-12 class size reductions required by law on June 30.
So, after June 30, the legislature ‘saved’ that $2 billion by holding a 6-minute hearing to justify an ‘emergency’ delay of … grade 4-12 class size reductions until the 2019-2020 school year. The State cannot credibly deny that it hurriedly adopted a four-year deferral of … grade 4-12 class size reductions because those class size reductions are – as the voters had been told before they enacted them – very expensive. …
That’s just procrastination – not compliance with the January 2014 Order. ...
Given the State’s continued failure to comply with this Court’s Orders and purge the State’s contempt, plaintiffs respectfully submit that this Court should at the very least:
1. Continue its Order holding the State in contempt of court until the State fully complies with the court orders in this case; and Order one or more of the following to coerce compliance with the court orders in this case:
2. Order one or more of the following to coerce compliance with the court orders in this case:
(a) Enjoin the State from acting on any other legislation until it has fully complied with the court orders in this case;
(b) Invalidate all tax exemptions authorized or re-authorized after this Court’s January2012 decision, with that invalidation lasting until the State convinces this Court that the State has fully complied with the court orders in this case; and/or
(c) Impose any of the seven remedial measures listed in this Court’s 2014 Show Cause Order, until the State convinces this Court that the State has fully complied with the court orders in this case.
You can find briefs filed by both the state and the plaintiff at these links: