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Washington Supreme Court Ends Years-Long Funding Dispute

Washington's supreme court Thursday put an end to more than a decade of legal wrangling over how much the state should spend on public schools. 

In a unanimous decision, the court said the legislature has complied with the court's 2012 ruling in which it said the state had fallen short of providing an adequate education to its students. 

Over the years, the state added millions more dollars to its education budget by expanding all-day kindgergarten, reducing class sizes, and paying for classroom supplies. But it had not, as the court required, been able to boost teacher salaries, an expensive and politically thorny process.   

The court said repeatedly that the state was not acting fast enough, and ramped up sanctions on the state, including a $100,000-a-day fine on the state's legislature for every day it was in session and did not come up with what they deemed to be a satisfactory spending plan for schools. 

Last September, the court said if the legislature failed to boost its teachers' salaries by the fall of 2018, it would hold the state in contempt and potentially shut down the schools, similar to action taken by Kansas' supreme court did last year.  

In responseWashington's legislature this year changed its tax structure to speed up the time frame for teachers in the state to get raises, providing $81 million more dollars to districts.  

That action satisfied the court, judges said Thursday. 

"The court concludes that the State has complied with the court's orders to fully implement its statutory program of basic education by September 1, 2018, and has purged its contempt," the court said in a letter posted on its website. "This justifies the termination of the court's retained jurisdiction and the lifting of the contempt sanctions."


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