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Donna Gordon Blankinship Associated Press Writer
Published: 29 March 2010


SEATTLE (AP) -- The state of Washington filed notice Thursday that it plans to appeal the recent decision in a basic education funding lawsuit to the state Supreme Court.
A King County judge ruled in February that the state is not fulfilling its constitutional obligation to fully pay for basic public education.
The lawsuit was filed by a coalition of school districts, parents, teachers and community organizations.
The notice from Attorney General Rob McKenna did not detail the reasons for the appeal, but a lawyer from his office said on the day Superior Court Judge John Erlick announced his decision that he thought both sides would find something to appeal.
The move goes against the stated request of state lawmakers, who lobbied the governor and McKenna not to appeal the decision when it was first handed down.
Gov. Chris Gregoire said Thursday that the Legislature needs clear direction as it continues to work on school reform.
``I am pleased we will have direction from the state's highest court as we work to ensure a world-class education for our children,'' she said in a statement.
Thomas F. Ahearne, lawyer for the coalition, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
In his ruling, Erlick acknowledged the state's efforts at reforming the way it pays for education and encouraged lawmakers to continue that work. But he said he based his decision on a state Supreme Court ruling from 30 years ago that found the state must amply provide for basic education. Relying so heavily on local levies fails that standard, he said.
The Legislature approved the next step in education funding reform this year, but because the state is facing a large budget deficit, lawmakers did not put a down payment on the new system. The Legislature also approved a measure that would give local school districts the option to raise more money through levies.
``The court is left with no doubt that under the State's current financing system the State is failing in its constitutional duty to make ample provision for the education of all children,'' the judge wrote. ``This court is convinced that basic education is not being funded by a stable and dependable source of funds provided by the state.''
The judge didn't set a specific timeline for reform but urged the Legislature to proceed with real and measurable progress to establish the cost of basic education and find a stable way to pay for it.
The Legislature has committed to reform the way it pays for basic education by 2018.
``I am committed to meeting the state's paramount duty to provide for the education of our children,'' Gregoire said. ``With legislation passed last year and this year, our state is poised to make major reforms to improve the way we educate our children and fund our schools.''
Associated Press Writer Rachel La Corte contributed to this story from Olympia.

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