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Wahkiakum School District sues the WA over its education funding model

Wahkiakum County sits just north of the Columbia River on the Oregon border. It’s Washington’s smallest county, where the medium income sits just around $36,000 a year.

If you go to school there, you’re learning in old buildings, oftentimes operating thanks to duct tape and chicken wire solutions.

Like all other school districts in the state, Wahkiakum relies on levies and bond measures to provide education funding. But here’s the thing: the last seven of eight bond measures to help repair their schools have failed, with one measure getting just 35% of the vote.

That hurdle is what drove Wahkiakum Superintendent Brent Freeman to sue the state over our public school funding model. The lawsuit could open a new chapter in the struggle over how Washington covers the costs of education – similar to what the McCleary case did 15 years ago.

So what impact could Wahkiakum's suit have on the rest of the state? And are other districts in support?

KUOW's Soundside spoke with Brent Freeman about the struggles Wahkiakum schools are currently facing, and his hopes for the district's future. We also spoke with journalist Nina Shapiro, a staff reporter at the Seattle Times, about the broader picture: which districts are benefiting from levy and bond measures, and are others struggling like Wahkiakum? What pieces of our educational system is the state helping to fund?