Arlington, Marysville school officials react to judge’s ruling on funding

SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Local school administrators are hopeful yet realistic about a decision made earlier this month by a King County Superior Court Judge.

Both the Arlington and Marysville school districts, along with their teachers unions, contributed funds to be part of a lawsuit made by the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools.

The lawsuit brought forward by the organization, which is made up by a coalition of school districts, teachers and parents, prompted the ruling by Superior Court Judge John Erlick on Feb. 4.

Erlick wrote in his ruling that Washington state does not adequately fund public education under the state’s constitution.

“It used to be that parties waited until things were dire before suing the state,” said Dr. Larry Nyland, Superintendent of the Marysville School District. “The new theory is sue the state regularly because that is the only way the Legislature will pay attention to their constitutional duty.”

Nyland said that the case was the third case over his career that showed that Washington does not live up to its constitutional mandate. He added that he hoped that the Legislature would take notice.

“The state has made this promise numerous times,” Nyland said. “They never fulfilled their promises.”

Arlington Superintendent Kristine McDuffy said during the Feb. 8 School Board meeting that the judge’s ruling was the biggest since the 1970s.

“There was lots of celebration but it was short-lived,” McDuffy said. “I’m sure there will be appeals, but regardless it was significant.”

Nyland also brought up appeals as being the next step in the process.

“Therefore it is likely to be some time before we see much action that would actually require the state to live up to their constitutional mandate,” Nyland said.

Although the Lakewood School District was not a part of the lawsuit, the ruling by the Superior Court judge will affect all Washington schools, Lakewood Superintendent Dennis Haddock said.

Haddock said that the ongoing failure by the state to fully fund education has forced school districts to scramble to pass local levies to pay for bare basics.

“Everyone in our state will benefit when we finally have a public school system that is funded amply and can provide a 21st century education to all students residing in Washington,” Haddock said.

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