State meeting funding obligations for special education, Court says

The Washington State Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling in an 8-1 decision Dec. 9 that the state is meeting its constitutional obligations in regards to its funding of special education programs.

The School District’s Alliance for Adequate Funding for Special Education, which consists of 12 districts statewide, argued that the state’s funding formula is inadequate for special education students, forcing school district’s to rely on local levies to cover the remaining costs. The formula consists of a Basic Education Allotment, based on a set amount of funds per student, with an additional .9309 per dollar spent on special education students. More funds are allotted if the student requires more than $15,000 per year in services, and federal funds are available for students needing services costing more than $21,000 per year.

According to the 20-page opinion, the Alliance failed in it’s calculations to include the funds spent on all students that benefits special education students as well.

“We will not decouple basic and special education and say that the BEA is always used up solely on basic education. Such a result would be absurd,” the court stated.

According to the state constitution, “It is the paramount duty of the State to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.”

The opinion comes on the heels of a King County Superior Court ruling in February 2010 that the state is failing to adequately fund basic education.

“Thirty years have passed since our state Supreme Court directed the state to provide stable and dependable funding for basic education,” according to the opinion. “The state has made progress toward this constitutional obligation, but remains out of compliance. State funding is not ample, it is not stable, and it is not dependable.”

That case, in which Disability Rights Washington was one of the plaintiffs, is under appeal to the Washington State Supreme Court.