Seattle School Dist. No. 1 of King County v. State, No. 44845

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Washington
Writing for the CourtSTAFFORD; At this juncture we also consider Marbury v. Madison, supra, wherein the United States Supreme Court first dealt with the basic powers and duties of the judiciary. Faced with a Congressional declaration of executive authority and an attempt
Citation90 Wn.2d 476,585 P.2d 71
PartiesSEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1 OF KING COUNTY, Washington, a Municipal Corporation, et al., Respondents-Cross-Appellants, v. The STATE of Washington et al., Appellants.
Decision Date28 September 1978
Docket NumberNo. 44845

Page 476

90 Wn.2d 476
585 P.2d 71
SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1 OF KING COUNTY, Washington, a
Municipal Corporation, et al., Respondents-Cross-Appellants,
v.
The STATE of Washington et al., Appellants.
No. 44845.
Supreme Court of Washington, En Banc.
Sept. 28, 1978.

Page 481

[585 P.2d 76] Timothy Malone, Asst. Atty. Gen., Olympia, Jones, Grey & Bayley, Seattle, Michael Andrews, Seattle, Richard Finnigan, Olympia, for appellants.

Camden Hall, Marco Magnano, Gary Little, Arval Morris, Seattle, Will Knedlik, Kirkland, for respondents-cross-appellants.

STAFFORD, Justice.

This appeal arises from a judgment of the trial court declaring unconstitutional the State's reliance upon special excess levy funding for discharging its paramount duty to make ample provision for the education of its resident children as required by Const. art. 9, § 1. Respondents cross-appeal from the trial court's denial of requested attorneys' fees. We affirm in part and modify in part.

The factual and legal background of this appeal is exceedingly complex. The necessity of adequately touching upon the large number of critical and unique issues involved has caused this opinion to reach great length. For that reason we shall first summarize the primary matters discussed at greater length hereafter.

I. A declaratory judgment is peculiarly well-suited to a judicial determination of controversies concerning constitutional rights and, as in this case, the constitutionality of legislative action or inaction under Const. art. 9, §§ 1 and 2. See page 80.

The trial court is affirmed in its use of this remedy.

II. All respondents have standing to seek declaratory relief. See page 80.

The trial court is affirmed.

Page 482

III. Whether Title 84.68 RCW precludes judicial resolution of this action is not properly before us. See page 83.

The trial court is affirmed.

IV. It is a proper function of the judiciary to interpret, construe and enforce the constitution of the State of Washington. See page 83.

The trial court is affirmed.

V. Section 1 is not a mere preamble of Const. art. 9. Const. art. 9, § 1 is mandatory and imposes a judicially enforceable affirmative duty. See page 84.

The trial court is affirmed.

VI. Although Const. art. 9, §§ 1 and 2 are not self-executing, neither judicial construction and interpretation giving them substantive content nor the judicial enforcement thereof violates separation of powers. See page 87.

The trial court is affirmed.

VII. Const. art. 9, § 1 imposes a paramount duty upon the State which in turn creates a correlative right on behalf of all children residing within the borders of the State. See page 90.

The trial court is affirmed.

VIII. Const. art. 9, § 1 imposes upon the State the paramount duty of making ample provision for the education of all resident children. The Legislature may properly be left the obligation of implementing the State's mandatory duty. The Legislature must act to carry out its constitutional duty by defining and giving substantive content to "basic education" and a basic program of education. See page 93.

The trial court is affirmed.

Page 483

IX. The State's affirmative paramount duty to make ample provision for the education of its resident children is a mandatory duty not limited to revenues derived [585 P.2d 77] from sources specified in Const. art. 9, §§ 3 and 5 and Const. art. 16. Rather, there can be compliance with the State's mandatory duty only if there are sufficient funds derived through dependable and regular tax sources to permit school districts to carry out a basic program of education. See page 96.

The trial court is affirmed.

X. The State has a mandatory duty to make ample provision for the basic education of all resident children through a general and uniform system. However, the ultimate obligation of giving effect to the mandate rests upon the Legislature. See page 97.

The trial court is affirmed.

XI. The statutory authorization of special excess levy elections for the purpose of meeting the State's mandated duty of making ample provision for "basic education" does not comply with Const. art. 9, §§ 1 and 2. However, special excess levies may be utilized to fund "enrichment programs" that go beyond the constitutional mandate. See page 97.

The trial court is affirmed.

XII. In the absence of special excess levies the State system of school funding does not make ample provision for the education of the children residing within respondent District and thus does not comply with Const. art. 9, § 1. See page 99.

The trial court is affirmed.

XIII. The Legislature has not expressly determined, in any current law, the level of funding or deployment

Page 484

of resources which is fully sufficient to provide the mandated "basic education." See page 104.

The trial court is affirmed.

XIV. Special excess levies used to fund, in whole or in part, the "basic education" mandated by Const. art. 9, §§ 1 and 2 are unconstitutional. The Legislature has the duty to define "basic education" and to make ample provision for its funding by means of regular and dependable tax sources. The relief granted herein shall be prospective in nature so that obligations heretofore incurred shall not be impaired. Recognizing that the Legislature will need an adequate opportunity to respond to this decision, we modify the judgment of the trial court and extend the date for compliance from July 1, 1979 to July 1, 1981. See page 104.

The judgment of the trial court is affirmed in part and modified in part.

XV. We do not retain jurisdiction over the parties or the action being confident the Legislature will comply fully with its constitutionally mandated duty. Having declined to retain jurisdiction over the parties and the action, we also modify those portions of the judgment that deny "at this time" respondents' prayer for two writs of prohibition against expenditure of State funds and respondents' prayer for a judicially declared constitutional standard of "basic education." See page 105.

The judgment of the trial court is modified.

XVI. The trial court properly refused to award reasonable attorneys' fees to respondents. See page 105.

The trial court is affirmed.

Page 485

The findings of fact demonstrate that Seattle School District No. 1 (District) must provide an educational program that complies with State statutes, regulations of the State Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Yet, while required to provide the program, the District is not given sufficient state revenue to [585 P.2d 78] do so. Rather, the Legislature has authorized school districts to supplement insufficient state funding by resort to special excess levy elections. This scheme merely authorizes a district to "seek" more adequate funding from the local electorate; but, the voters are not required to approve the request. A special excess levy election may not be brought more than twice in any one year. If the second request fails, the district must operate within the funds provided by the State.

School districts have no independent authority to raise funds necessary to fulfill their legal obligations. Consequently, school districts in general and the District in particular, have relied increasingly upon special excess levies to obtain funds necessary for their maintenance and operation budgets.

In 1975 the District twice submitted special excess levy proposals for the purpose of raising necessary additional revenue. As is true of most districts, the District did not base its levy request upon actual need. Rather, it sought a lesser amount believing it might attract voter approval. Although the amount requested, when added to the State guarantee, would not have provided full funding, both levy propositions failed. As a result, the District not only lost needed revenue, it incurred the heavy expense of twice placing the issue on the ballot. The District's experience was not unique. During the 1975-76 school year, 40 percent of the students in the state were in levy loss districts.

The findings of fact reveal that if special excess levies are utilized, in part, to provide for the maintenance and operation of a school district, a levy failure will adversely affect

Page 486

the quality of education. It goes without saying that a Double levy failure will severely damage a district's educational program.

Faced with a deteriorating physical plant, a reduction in budgets for books, supplies, staff and programs and a double levy failure, petitioners (respondents and cross-appellants herein) brought this action. The thrust of their claim was that the State had failed to discharge its "paramount duty" to make "ample provision for the education" of its resident children pursuant to Const. art. 9, § 1 and to "provide for a general and uniform system of public schools" pursuant to Const. art. 9, § 2.

The action originated in December 1975 in the Supreme Court as "Petitions for Mandamus, Prohibition and Declaratory Judgment." The original petitioners (respondents and cross-appellants herein) are the District; certain named voter-taxpayers in King County, some of whom are members of the District school board and all of whom are parents of minor children enrolled in and attending the District's schools; and children enrolled in the District as students.

The original respondents (appellants herein) are the State of Washington (State); the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate, as representatives and principal officers of the State House of Representatives and Senate (Legislature); the Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI); the State Treasurer; and, each member of the State Board of Education (Board).

After a hearing, this court transferred the matter to the Superior Court for Thurston County for an expedited "resolution of all issues of fact and law." The case, as finally determined, was to be subject to direct appeal to the Supreme Court in accordance with appellate...

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    ...And a financial loss constitutes an injury in fact for the purposes of standing. Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1 v. State, 90 Wash.2d 476, 493, 585 P.2d 71 (1978). ¶ 34 Here, the petition sponsors sought to require Longview to place the initiative on the ballot before determining whether the initi......
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    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
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    ...Act (UDJA), RCW 7.24. Attorney fees are not provided for under the UDJA. Seattle School Dist. No. 1 v. State, 90 Wash.2d 476, 540-41, 585 P.2d 71 (1978); RCW 7.24.100. In fact, in the context of State initiated declaratory judgment actions regarding constitutional issues, we have previously......
  • Aji P. v. State, No. 80007-8-I
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    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • February 8, 2021
    ...for the executive and legislative branches.¶ 22 The Youths disagree and rely on Seattle School District No. 1 v. State, 90 Wash.2d 476, 585 P.2d 71 (1978), and McCleary for the proposition that they are merely asking the court "to engage in its traditional and core duty to interpret and enf......
  • Lakehaven Water & Sewer Dist., Highline Water Dist., & Midway Sewer Dist., Mun. Corporations v. City of Fed. Way, Corp., NO. 96585-4
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    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • June 18, 2020
    ..., 103 Wash.2d 663, 668, 694 P.2d 641 (1985) (quoting 466 P.3d 227 Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1 of King County v. State , 90 Wash.2d 476, 493, 585 P.2d 71 (1978) ). "Standing requirements tend to overlap the requirements for justiciability under the UDJA [Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act, ch. 7......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
221 cases
  • City of Longview, Mun. Corp. v. Mike Wallin, an Individual, Bancams.Com, an Unknown Entity, Wa Campaign for Liberty, Non-Profit Corp., No. 43385–1–II.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • April 30, 2013
    ...And a financial loss constitutes an injury in fact for the purposes of standing. Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1 v. State, 90 Wash.2d 476, 493, 585 P.2d 71 (1978). ¶ 34 Here, the petition sponsors sought to require Longview to place the initiative on the ballot before determining whether the initi......
  • City of Seattle v. McCready, No. 63275-8
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • February 13, 1997
    ...Act (UDJA), RCW 7.24. Attorney fees are not provided for under the UDJA. Seattle School Dist. No. 1 v. State, 90 Wash.2d 476, 540-41, 585 P.2d 71 (1978); RCW 7.24.100. In fact, in the context of State initiated declaratory judgment actions regarding constitutional issues, we have previously......
  • Aji P. v. State, No. 80007-8-I
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Washington
    • February 8, 2021
    ...for the executive and legislative branches.¶ 22 The Youths disagree and rely on Seattle School District No. 1 v. State, 90 Wash.2d 476, 585 P.2d 71 (1978), and McCleary for the proposition that they are merely asking the court "to engage in its traditional and core duty to interpret and enf......
  • Lakehaven Water & Sewer Dist., Highline Water Dist., & Midway Sewer Dist., Mun. Corporations v. City of Fed. Way, Corp., NO. 96585-4
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Washington
    • June 18, 2020
    ..., 103 Wash.2d 663, 668, 694 P.2d 641 (1985) (quoting 466 P.3d 227 Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1 of King County v. State , 90 Wash.2d 476, 493, 585 P.2d 71 (1978) ). "Standing requirements tend to overlap the requirements for justiciability under the UDJA [Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act, ch. 7......
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2 books & journal articles
  • GLIMPSES OF REPRESENTATION-REINFORCEMENT IN STATE COURTS.
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    • Constitutional Commentary Vol. 36 Nbr. 2, September 2021
    • September 22, 2021
    ...education, which includes safe facilities in which they can learn fundamental skills); Seattle Sch. Dist. No. 1 of King Cnty. v. State, 585 P.2d 71 (Wash. 1978) (holding that the Washington Constitution's education article creates a judicially enforceable duly and a right on behalf of all r......
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    • Legislative Studies Quarterly Nbr. 32-2, May 2007
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    ...in Networks of Informationabout Schools.” American Journal of Political Science 41: 1201–23.Seattle School District No.1 v. State. 1978. 585 P.2d 71 (Wash.).Serrano v. Priest [Serrano II]. 1976. 557 P.2d 929 (Cal.).Shipan, Charles R. 1997. Designing Judicial Review: Interest Groups, Congres......

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