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Could McCleary Decision Help WA Address Education Disparities?

Lawmakers in Olympia are still grappling with ways to properly fund public schools, after the 2012 McCleary decision. (dannymac15_1999/Flickr)
Lawmakers in Olympia are still grappling with ways to properly fund public schools, after the 2012 McCleary decision. (dannymac15_1999/Flickr)
January 23, 2017

OLYMPIA, Wash. – For many lawmakers in Olympia, the McCleary decision and how to properly fund public schools has been a stumbling block.

But Sharonne Navas, co-founder and executive director of the Equity in Education Coalition, sees the issue as an opportunity for legislators this year to think outside the box.

Her group and others have launched the Campaign for Student Success, aimed at bringing equity to Washington public schools.

Navas says school funding right now is based on how much staff time the state can buy, but it could change to a more student-centric formula.

"So that students who are living in rural communities, students who are living in poverty, they would get more resources, because they are dealing with some hurdles that a lot of our students don't have to deal with,” she explains. “And that's a much fairer, much more equitable way of funding education."

In 2012, the state Supreme Court ruled in McCleary v. State of Washington that the state must amply fund public education "for all students residing within its borders, without distinction or preference."

The Legislature set 2018 as the latest deadline to be in compliance with the ruling.

Navas says after-school learning could be an important component. After-school programs can help close achievement gaps among Washington's students, but not every student has that option.

"They shouldn't be penalized for not having those services,” she stresses. “We know that the best time to capture kids and help them with their homework is right after school, because some parents have to work until 6 or 7."

Navas adds she sees a hunger in Olympia for a conversation that includes hope, and giving every Washington student a chance to succeed.

"For a really long time, the conversation has just really been about money,” she states. “And now, the conversation is about, 'OK, yes, we need the money, but how can we re-imagine education, so that each and every child meets their level of success?'"


Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - WA