By Jerry Cornfield
The Attorney General’s Office has decided not to weigh in on the legality of using local levy dollars to make up for a lack of state money to pay teachers, principals and staff in public schools.
That isn’t going to make Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn happy.
Last month he asked Attorney General Bob Ferguson for a formal opinion on whether school boards can use the local levies to compensate employees for basic education services that the state should pay for but doesn’t.
While the McCleary decision from the state Supreme Court makes clear the state must fully fund basic education, Dorn wanted to know if that means school districts can use levy funds where the state has failed to meet its obligation like salaries.
“I believe the answer is no,” he said on the day he forwarded his request to Ferguson.
On Dec. 3, Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey Even wrote Dorn to “respectfully decline your request for an opinion”.
“Although your question is not precisely at issue in the McCleary case, the very closely related question of whether the State may discharge its duty by relying on local tax levy revenues has been and continues to be squarely before the Court,” Even wrote.
Continuing, he wrote, “Our answer to your question could anticipate forthcoming proceedings in this case, inject new issues into the case, or implicate constitutional questions surrounding state statutes governing education funding, which are directly or indirectly at issue in McCleary.
“In short, the issues raised in McCleary so intertwine with the question that you pose that we conclude that we cannot respond to your question without implicating constitutional questions that arise in the ongoing litigation.”