Washington school district sues state over building funding

December 30, 2021 GMT

CATHLAMET, Wash. (AP) — A decade ago, the Washington Supreme Court ruled in the landmark McCleary case that the state was failing to uphold its state constitutional duty to fund basic education for all students, but it stopped short of changing the funding system for building construction and improvements.

Now, a lawyer in the McCleary case has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a small rural district in southwestern Washington, arguing the state is also violating the constitution by failing to ensure all students learn in safe and modern school buildings, the Seattle Times reported.

“Public education is supposed to be the great equalizer in our democracy,” said the complaint filed Tuesday in Wahkiakum County Superior Court. “Our state government’s failure to amply fund the Wahkiakum School District’s capital needs, however, does the opposite. It makes our public schools a perpetuator of class inequality.”

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That’s because wealthy districts tend to vote in favor of taxing themselves for capital improvements, while poorer ones may not, according to the lawsuit.

Benjamin King, a spokesperson with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, said in an email the complaint “was served to the Attorney General’s office, who’s currently reviewing it. Not having learned many details of the complaint, it’s too soon for OSPI to comment.”