Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Monday, March 9, 2009

NEWS Coalition working to tackle education reform on all fronts

The wheels of justice turn slowly, but those in Washington who care about education hope that they are at least rolling in the right direction.

A lawsuit filed over two years ago by a coalition of nearly seventy organizations which are “committed to improving the quality of education in our state” is set to finally go to trial in King County Superior Court this spring.

The plaintiff, the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools (NEWS), includes twenty seven state school districts (a varied group including the Seattle, Spokane and Yakima school districts), the state’s largest teachers union, the Washington State PTA, and the Washington League of Women Voters.

The timing of the trial could defy Murphy’s Law and work out perfectly. According to NEWS, the lawsuit:
...asks the courts to order the state of Washington to live up to its paramount constitutional duty to make ample provision for the education of all Washington children.
Right now, the state's definition of education is antiquated and deficient, but as you read this, the Washington Legislature is working hard to redefine what a basic education looks like in the 21st century.

If finished by the end of the legislative session in April, the new definition would modernize our current system, which is performing poorly.

A court ruling stating that Washington State must fulfill its Constitutional obligation and pay for the education of all of its children will hopefully compel elected leaders to properly fund an improved schools system.

Education advocates have worked tirelessly to get the Legislature to redefine public education, but history shows that working through the court system can be more effective than the legislative process:
Around the country, 45 states have experienced similar lawsuits. In most cases filed since the 1980s, the plaintiffs won, and the state government was forced by court order to do something about education.
That fact isn't lost upon Washingtonians. The Federal Way School District has netted $4.6 million over four years from two lawsuits it waged against the state over unfair funding. That school district has benefited from its cases, but since they are now stuck in appeals court they haven’t benefited the state at large.

Creak, creak go the wheels of justice. The Legislature, which often seems to move at a glacial pace, is not much faster. How many kids will go through Washington’s public schools before improvements are made?

Maybe we should start measuring progress in geologic time.


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