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State Supreme Court prepares for progress report on education funding

WA State Supreme Court (KOMO)

OYLMPIA, Wash. - As kids head back to the classroom, state lawmakers are taking a hard look at how schools across the state are funded.

Legislators are under the gun from the state supreme court to get things done. The legislature is being fined $100,000 a day for every day it doesn't have a solution to the school funding question.

At a special hearing Tuesday, it is clear lawmakers are not yet ready.

It is the House and Senate "education funding task force." The select group of democrats and republicans must develop an overall plan to fully fund public education as mandated by the state high court in what's called the 'McCleary Decision.'

"What they wanted was for us to submit a plan," said House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D- Covington. "We submitted a plan last year."

Part of that plan was to get an outside consultant to look at all aspects of public education, and focus on teacher salaries and how to get away from local districts having to make up the difference in shortfalls.

But the five-month project won't be done until November 15th. Then lawmakers will have to use that information to come with an overall spending plan.

"So even after Nov 15th we won't have the bill, the total number that we need to pay until a little bit later," said Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah,

The task force was particularly timely because Wednesday the State Supreme Court justices are going to take up this very topic. The high court will decide if the progress is satisfactory or if they will impose heavier sanctions. There is even the possibility of shutting schools until a solution is found.

They may be just as impatient as 4th grader Asher Ravona who testified in front of the task force.

"I was in Olympia last year. I testified and I was patient and now I'm here to tell you I'm tired of being patient," he said.

Wednesday's Supreme Court hearing is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. A demonstration will be held before the hearing with those opposing the sanctions and wanting to keep schools open.

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