Pasco School Board may help group fight appeal

The Pasco School Board is expected to vote tonight on whether to send $5,000 to a nonprofit that sued the state for not spending enough money on education.

About 100 organizations statewide, including school districts, parent-teacher associations, teachers unions and groups representing minority and disabled students are contributing members of the Network for Excellence in Washington Schools.

The Pasco, Kennewick and Richland school districts are among them.

In 2007, the network and two parents of Washington students sued the state, alleging that the government neglected its constitutional mandate.

The Washington constitution in Article IX, Section 1 says: "It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all students."

The nonprofit contends the state's provisions are not ample and do not address the needs of all students.

Judge John Erlick in King County Superior Court ruled in 2009 that the state is not meeting its constitutional obligations "to equip all children with the basic knowledge and skills mandated by this state's minimum education standards."

The judge wrote that "local school districts continue to rely on local levies and other nonstate resources to supplement state funding for a basic program of education."

He ordered the state to fund schools adequately without districts having to rely on local levies. The state appealed.

If upheld, the decision could drastically re-shape how education is paid for. For example, just 68 percent of Kennewick's operating budget is paid for by the state. Federal money and local levies carry the rest.

The Richland and Kennewick school boards have already agreed to send $5,000 each to help pay for the appeal.

The Pasco board votes today when it meets at 6:30 p.m. at the C.L. Booth building, 1213 W. Lewis St.