A personal finance website has ranked Washington's education system as among the top 15 in the nation and the best west of Colorado.
But WalletHub put the state at the bottom when it came to school safety and student success after graduation. Additionally, the site gave Washington a "mixed" review on school funding, as the 13 strongest state education systems spent far more on education.
How much the state provides for K-12 education has long been a contentious issue, resulting in the January 2012 Washington Supreme Court ruling requiring the Legislature to fully fund schools by 2018.
State Superintendent Randy Dorn filed a brief with the court Monday saying the Legislature was falling short on meeting the court's order to fully pay for K-12 education.
"It's about what's right for students," Dorn said in a news release. "It's about giving them a quality education that will help them be successful in their futures."
Education officials had plenty of criticism of WalletHub's assessment of the safety and effectiveness of the state's schools.
"You can tell any story you want with data," said Columbia Basin College President Rich Cummins.
WalletHub looked at 12 factors in determining its overall rankings, from drop out rates and student-to-teacher ratios, to bullying and the percentage of people in the state with at least a bachelor's degree.
Washington more than outranks most western states overall, though Colorado came out the best at No. 6 in school quality. Utah ranked 21, Idaho 27, Montana 30, Oregon 33, California 39 and Nevada 47.
However, the site said the state failed in other ways. Washington ranked No. 50 out of 51 states and the District of Columbia in a category that looked at bullying incidents, reports of threats at school, college degree attainment and student financial literacy.
State officials said that assessment doesn't match their data on those issues. Most Washington students report feeling safe at school based on a survey conducted by OSPI and several other state agencies, said Mike Donline, the state's school safety director.
The state also has among the toughest legislation and policies regarding bullying in the country, and suspension and expulsion rates for bullying are declining statewide, said OSPI spokeswoman Kristen Jaudon.
"We're trying to understand the methodology that found Washington is No. 50 for school safety," she said.
State education officials also said that the state has one of the higher rates of people earning college degrees in the country.
Cummins took issue with the WalletHub list only considering post-secondary education that led to at least a four-year degree or higher, meaning people who have an associate degree or a special certification were excluded.
"We're hearing more people need post-secondary education, but that doesn't necessarily mean a bachelor's degree," Cummins said.
-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald