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Wash. Supreme Court: Public School Funding Inadequate

States across the country are struggling to fund public education, and Idaho is no exception.

On Thursday, a State Supreme Court ruling said the legislature in nearby Washington state simply isn’t doing its job when it comes to funding schools.

The decision said it is the state’s constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education for all children in Washington.

The case started in 2007 when a group of Washington teachers, schools districts, and parents argued the state was not adequately funding public schools; instead relying too heavily on help from local levies.

In a 7-2 decision in McCleary v. Sashington, the state’s supreme court affirmed the group’s allegation.

The outcome resonated with Idahoans, after a year of cuts and big changes to Gem State education.

“I think there is definitely a comparison. The state is obligated to fund public schools for children,” said former state representative Donna Boe- (D) Pocatello.

Boe offered her initial reaction, saying cost-cutting has left Idaho school districts with a severe handicap that can’t always be overcome by supplemental levies.

“Each district, theres a wide range in their ability to do that,” Boe said.

“In your opinion, does it feel like the Idaho legislature is meeting that obligation?” asked reporter Marissa Bodnar.

“I don’t,” said Boe. “I think there can be a lot of ways they can try and increase funding for public schools.”

Sen. Dean Mortimer -(R) Idaho Falls said about 50 percent of Idaho’s general fund budget goes toward education.

Melissa McGrath, a representative from Idaho’s Department of Education, said context is very important in this particular case.

She said the funding in Washington is different from Idaho, along with the financial situation. While Washington is up against a major budget shortfall, Idaho may be able to increase public school spending in the upcoming legislative session, said McGrath.

It’s unclear how the case will impact Idaho, if at all, whether in the form of a lawsuit or weighing heavily as a precedent in the future.

The Washington state legislature convenes Jan. 9 and faces a $2 billion budget shortfall.

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