It’s become an annual routine these past few years: State lawmakers submit a report saying they’re doing lots of things to comply with a court order to fix schools.
And, inevitably, the plaintiffs in the McCleary school-funding case file a brief with the state Supreme Court saying, “Nope, you’re not even close.”
The predictability of the legal call-and-response might be why this year, the lawyer for the McCleary plaintiffs upped the ante a bit.
In attorney Thomas Ahearne’s latest reply brief submitted to the court, there’s clip art of a Peanuts comic strip. There’s a reference to the Magna Carta.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Bellingham Herald
And there are not-so-flattering comparisons of Washington lawmakers to a Nazi propagandist, and U.S. officials who interned Japanese citizens during World War II.
If I were a teacher, I’d be ticked.
State Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, objecting to plantiffs’ latest filing in McCleary school-funding case
It was enough to prompt some lawmakers to object on social media. State Rep. Matt Manweller, R-Ellensburg, tweeted Wednesday that the “McCleary plaintiffs jump(ed) the shark” by comparing Washington’s schools to internment camps.
“If I were a teacher, I’d be ticked,” Manweller tweeted.
In Ahearne’s latest court filing, he argues the court needs to impose harsh sanctions on the state due to the Legislature’s lack of progress on fixing school-funding problems. Here are some of the more colorful metaphors he employs to make his point.
Nazi propaganda minister
Ahearne disagrees with the state’s assertion that a measure lawmakers passed this year constitutes a plan to fully fund public schools by 2018.
So, therefore, Nazis.
“Repeatedly asserting an inaccurate statement makes that statement familiar to the ear,” Ahearne writes. “Which is part of why a propaganda artist in the last century maintained that if the government asserts a falsehood and keeps repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it’s true.”
Ahearne makes it clear he’s referring to Joseph Goebbels, the minister of propaganda in Nazi Germany, by including one of his quotes: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
History shows us what happens if courts ignore the rule of law when elected officials violate constitutional rights.
Thomas Ahearne, attorney for McCleary plaintiffs, referencing the forced internment of Japanese-Americans
Japanese internment camps
Ahearne includes in his brief a photo of Japanese Americans being removed from Bainbridge Island and sent to internment camps during World War II. He compares that violation of citizens’ rights to Washington’s violation of students’ rights to an amply funded K-12 education.
“History shows us what happens if courts ignore the rule of law when elected officials violate constitutional rights,” Ahearne writes. “E.g., the Japanese-American Exclusion orders during World War II.”
George Wallace blocking school desegregation
Ahearne trots out this metaphor again after using it in prior briefs. His latest filing includes a photo of former Alabama Gov. George Wallace in 1963, standing in a doorway to block the entry of two black students to an auditorium at the University of Alabama.
Ahearne suggests that the state Supreme Court should follow in the footsteps of Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, who is shown confronting Wallace to enforce a court order to desegregate the public university.
“... Elected officials who run our government are not above the law,” Ahearne writes.
...Elected officials who run our government are not above the law.’
Thomas Ahearne, attorney for plaintiffs in McCleary education-funding lawsuit
A speeding driver who won’t pay a speeding ticket
Last year, the court began imposing $100,000 a day in fines over the Legislature’s failure to produce a plan to fully fund schools. The state has now racked up more than $28 million in fines, but state lawmakers didn’t appropriate money in their budget this year to pay for them.
Lawyers for the state argued that’s forgivable because the state has plenty of money in its reserves to cover the fine.
“That ‘excuse’ is akin to a driver being fined for violating the speed limit in front of an elementary school, and then telling the court his refusal to pay that fine should be excused since he has plenty of money in his bank account to pay the fine if he wanted to,” Ahearne argues.
Lucy and Charlie Brown
Republicans have compared the court’s escalating actions in the McCleary case to Lucy’s behavior toward Charlie Brown in the “Peanuts” comic strip: Every time Charlie Brown tries to kick a football held by Lucy, the girl pulls it away.
But Ahearne says actually, the Legislature is Lucy, and the court is Charlie. After being tricked so many times, Charlie Brown (the court) shouldn’t trust Lucy (the Legislature) anymore to follow through on its word.
“Saying ‘But This Time We Mean It’ ” doesn’t work, Ahearne writes, including an image of Charlie Brown standing in front of Lucy with the football.
“Oh, no ... not again!” Charlie Brown says in the cartoon.