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Washington's School Funding Problem Just Got Very Expensive

Washington's Supreme Court is fining the state every day until it can figure out its education budget. Low-income districts are an area of concern.

By Samantha Crook | August 14, 2015

Washington State's Supreme Court is now fining the state $100,000 per day until it adopts a plan to fund the K-12 public school system, according to the court's standards.

"The wealthy districts are given a 21st century education system. The poor districts are given a 20th century education. So, the opportunity is not the same," said Randy Dorn, the Washington State Superintendent in response to the Washington Supreme Court decision.

The ruling comes after the state's Supreme Court threatened to take action back in 2012 in a case filed by parents and hundreds of school districts.

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The decision in Washington is part of a pattern in state Supreme Court rulings against legislatures. State Supreme Courts have called out legislatures for underfunding low-income school districts before. (Video via New Jersey Judiciary

"I do not believe that is the role of the state Supreme Court to determine to determine what programs the state should and should not be funding and to what amount ... the [state] Supreme Court is not the legislature," Governor Chris Christie said in a statement about the New Jersey Supreme Court Abbott ruling.

"The Kansas Supreme Court ruled the state is not providing enough money to public schools," an anchor for KSHB said in announcing the Kansas Supreme Court decision. (Video via KSHB & WDAF)

According to a report from the Education Law Center, Washington has failed to increase funding for students in high poverty districts, a pattern the state shares with California, Florida and Colorado. (Video via California Teachers Association)

The report suggests that one of the country's root problems with education funding is that state budgets have been slow to restore funds after the 2007 economic crisis.

While the Education Law Center doesn't take into consideration more recent policy proposals from the Washington legislature, like all-day kindergarten, the state is still off-track to meet their 2018 goals.

In Washington's case, disparities between districts is largely due to the state's reliance on voter-approved property-tax increases, called levies, to fund education. This way of determining funding means that higher-income districts can have an easier time passing the increases.

It's still unclear as to whether the legislature will actually agree to pay the fine. (Video via Highline Public Schools)

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