Washington Lawsuit Moves Forward

Last Updated: July 23, 2010

This article appeared in the July 2010 Rural Policy Matters.

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A special education lawsuit in the state moved forward last month when the Washington Supreme Court heard oral arguments by the Alliance for Adequate Funding of Special Education, which brought the suit in 2004. The twelve member districts claim that the state’s failure to fully fund special education programs is a constitutional violation. Over 70 other school districts filed amicus briefs in the case.

In 2009, the State Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision finding the funding system constitutional. The Alliance then appealed that decision to the state’s highest court.

Funding shortfalls for special education run in the millions in some districts, and the coalition argues that the state is approximately $130 million short in meeting its obligation overall.

The trial court did rule that the state’s cap on special education was unconstitutional. Previously, Washington funded special education for no more than 12.7% of the total number of students in a district.

Previous court rulings in Washington in the 1980s found that the state must provide special education funding and that some safety net measures were needed to supplement the budget.

Read more:

Local coverage:

Read the court filings in the case by searching under the case’s hearing date of June 22, 2010 here:

Read about the lawsuit’s history here:

Read more from the July 2010 Rural Policy Matters.