Northwest NEWS

May 25, 1998


Support for Initiative 686

  Funding a college education for young adults is a private matter, except in Washington State. If divorced parents in Washington disagree about the financing of a college education for their children, this state believes the courts should make the decisions regarding the amount of college support a parent will pay. Courts regularly enforce Washington State law (RCW 26.19.090) whereby "the court shall exercise its discretion when determining whether and for how long to award post secondary (college) educational support..."
   The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled in 1995 that a similar law in their state was unconstitutional. "Neither the United States Constitution nor the Pennsylvania Constitution provides an individual right to post secondary (college) education" and this law classifies young adults according to the marital status of their parent, establishing for one group an action to obtain a benefit enforceable by court order that is not available to the other group.
   The relevant category under consideration is children in need of funds for a college education. "Ultimately, we can conceive of no rational reason why those similarly situated with respect to needing funds for college education should be treated unequally." In Washington, married parents cannot be ordered by the court to pay for college, but divorced parents can.
   There is an unfair presumption that non-custodial parents will not support their children's college educational goals and therefore must be compelled to do so. This is biased and blatantly not true. There are parents who will and parents who won't, married or divorced. I always thought the constitution of the United States and of the State of Washington held that all citizens are to be treated equally under the law.
   There will always be difficult decisions for parents who believe in teaching young adults financial responsibility while achieving the goals of a college education. Initiative 686 lets the parents decide. The Official Ballot title reads, "Shall courts be barred from ordering any divorced parents to pay support for the post-secondary education of their dependent children over eighteen years of age?" Please support Initiative 686. Call 206-233-9472 for your petition.
   Wayne Emery, South Colby