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Education and Training
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

On Eve Of Court Hearing, Lawmakers Get An Earful On School Funding

Austin Jenkins
Northwest News Network
School librarians and their lobbyist, Carolyn Logue, testify Tuesday before a legislative task force on school funding. The task force must make recommendations on issues like teacher pay and achieving class size reduction.

Just as the school year begins, the Washington state Supreme Court will get an update Wednesday on school funding efforts in the state legislature. Tuesday, a panel of lawmakers got an earful.

It was a packed house at the state Capitol for a meeting of the legislature’s Education Funding Task Force. This is a bipartisan, bicameral group of legislators that must make recommendations on issues like teacher pay and achieving class-size reduction. This all stems from a Supreme Court mandate that the state fully fund basic education by next school year.

Some lawmakers feel the court overstepped its bounds. But education blogger Melissa Westbrook urged lawmakers not to pick a fight over separation of powers.

“Please do not make a difficult situation worse by trying to challenge and verbally abuse the Supreme Court,” she said. “You are equal branches of government charged with overseeing each other’s work. Please think of them as colleagues, not as enemies and get this work done for the children of Washington state and for the ultimate good of our economy and democracy.”

Groups like Washington Paramount Duty -- a network of parents -- also rallied members to attend the task force meeting with the message that lawmakers need to step up the pace when it comes to fully funding schools.

Washington is currently being hit with a $100,000 per day fine until it comes up with a complete school funding plan.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide this fall whether the state is now in compliance with court orders or if further sanctions are warranted.