As Jen Graves and I were pointing out during our rage spiral on this week's Blabbermouth podcast, our elected leaders in Olympia have for some reason been content to let three years pass without following our state supreme court's order to stop the unconstitutional underfunding of Washington's public school system.
That chronic underfunding, of course, is a major contributor to the current teachers strike in Seattle. Sure, lawmakers in Olympia have taken some steps in the right direction over the last few sessions, but they have not yet complied with the high court's years-old order. (And yet have somehow managed to escape an all-school shutdown or jail time—meaning they're luckier constitution-ignorers than Kim Davis.) Instead, they're currently racking up $100,000-a-day contempt fines.
Today, Governor Jay Inslee admitted to the outlaw nature of our current state government in a letter (.PDF) to all state legislators that, among other things, says flatly that Olympia's standing is eroding "with Washingtonians who expect we will support public education and live by the rule of law." After three years of them not living by the rule of law, that's a bit of an understatement.
But given this concern for how he and others in Olympia are now perceived, will the governor call a special session right now to find the money for Washington public schools that's still needed in order to get himself and the legislature on the right side of the Washington constitution?
After all, what's still needed for schools is around $2.6 billion—a large amount, true, but only a fraction of the $8.7 billion Inslee gave Boeing in tax breaks during a very speedy special session called in 2013. (That, by the way, was the largest tax break ever given to any private company by any state, and as it was being handed out lawmakers and the governor knew they simultaneously needed billions for education. In other words, they found $8.7 billion for Boeing in a few days but have spent years not-finding a smaller number of billions for public schools, even though a decent public education is "the paramount duty" of our state under the Washington constitution.) According to today's letter from the governor, the answer to the question of whether he will call a special session for education right now is no. For now.
No special session (as some lawmakers want) to help out charter schools now that our state's charter schools law has been found to unconstitutionally use public money for private schools. (Inslee doesn't support charter schools, anyway.) And no immediate special session to find the billions he and lawmakers still need for Washington's public schools.
Inslee does, however, have a "workgroup" of select lawmakers that's studying up on the whole unconstitutional underfunding of public schools thing, and how it might be solved, and if that workgroup can "find consensus" by November 19, when legislators are all going to be in Olympia anyway for "Assembly Days," then Inslee will call a special session "to get this work done."
Bottom line: In year three of our outlaw legislature, and day three of the Seattle teachers strike, Governor Inslee says it'll be months before he considers calling a special session on education funding.