Gov. Jay Inslee says he and legislative leaders are looking at how they can meet the state Supreme Court's demands for better planning to provide equal educational opportunities in public schools across the state.
The governor said he and top legislators had a good discussion in SeaTac on Monday. “We will have another meeting in the next few days—sometime this week—after leaders have a chance to talk with their caucuses about what is the best way to fashion a solution to this statewide challenge,” he said during a brief session with reporters.
The court last week imposed fines of $100,000 a day on the state until the Legislature and governor come up with plans to put more money into reducing class sizes in grades K-3 and taking over all responsibility for the costs of basic educational services from school districts. The school systems around the state have widely varying financial resources, creating significant inequities in education spending and programs.
Overall, the class size reductions and the state assumption of the basic funding responsibilities now handled, in part, by the districts could cost roughly $5 billion. Inslee said it's possible the Supreme Court would be satisfied with something less than a final scheme on exactly how to raise the money, perhaps finding that good plans for determining how to raise the money would be enough.
Inslee said he would prefer legislators develop plans that could satisfy the court before the 2016 session of the Legislature begins next year. The lawmakers could find ways to work out agreement on their next steps without convening a new session, he said, and then meet briefly in Olympia for a special session of just one day to adopt plans that would satisfy the court.
"It is my hope that legislators, in the days and weeks to come, will try to fashion a plan that we can pass in both chambers," he said. "If that can be done—and I don’t think there should be a reason to believe it can’t or shouldn’t be done, even though this is tough—then the legislature can be called in for a session that can take hours to get the vote and get it done."
Inslee said, "The state and our kids deserve an answer, they deserve a step forward, and they deserve a plan that will solve this problem."