Dorn frustrated with lack of progress on education

  • By Jerry Cornfield Herald Columnist
  • Wednesday, January 13, 2016 7:45pm
  • Local News

Minutes before Gov. Jay Inslee gave his State of the State address Tuesday, the leader of Washington’s public school system delivered a message of his own.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn joined the procession of state elected officials to seats in the front of the chamber of the House of Representatives.

Moments later, Dorn stood up, placed a note on his chair that read “Reserved for kids and students” and walked out.

The silent public protest was Dorn’s way of expressing his frustration with the governor and lawmakers for being nothing shy of derelict in their constitutional duty to amply fund Washington’s education system.

“I’m disappointed that our elected officials aren’t taking this whole solution thing seriously,” he said. Students “should have a seat to hear what’s going on,”

The state Supreme Court ruled in 2012 in the McCleary case that the means by which Washington pays for its public schools is unconstitutional.

Justices said the state needed to step up and cover the full cost of a basic education of elementary and secondary students, including the salaries of teachers. They also said the state needed to end school districts’ overreliance on local levies to operate.

Justices set a 2018 deadline to comply and later demanded lawmakers turn in a plan for how they intended to get it all done. They haven’t turned one in, inciting the court to find lawmakers in contempt and impose a $100,000-a-day fine until a plan is delivered.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has crafted a bill aimed at satisfying the court’s demand and positioning the Legislature to act in 2017 on the sticky — and expensive — issue of replacing local tax levies with state tax dollars.

It’s the last big piece of the McCleary puzzle. But such a swap will cost billions of dollars every budget cycle and lawmakers are divided on how best to raise that money.

“They don’t know how to pay for it. They will do a Michael Jackson moon walk to get away from that,” Dorn said. “There’s nothing I’ve seen so far that is going to get them out of contempt and meet the court deadline.”

Inslee, who convened that McCleary work group, is endorsing the legislation. He expressed confidence in his address Tuesday that lawmakers will follow through in 2017.

“We are on track,” Inslee said. “We’re not going to just fix a few potholes — we’re going to finish the job. That means actually financing these critical investments so our kids and grandkids get the education they deserve.”

But Dorn is concerned Inslee’s push to give teachers a pay hike this year will boost the state’s costs, making it more difficult next year to reach agreement.

“What I’ve seen so far is the governor put out a budget that makes districts more dependent on levies which is what the Supreme Court said you should not do,” he said. “It makes the problem bigger.”

Dorn is not seeking re-election but he’s so frustrated he’s contemplating an independent run for governor. Not, he insists, because it’s the political seat he’s long coveted.

Rather, he said, a campaign would provide a vehicle to present voters with a detailed approach to paying for public schools. And it might force Inslee and his Republican opponent, Bill Bryant, to respond with something more than nice rhetoric, he said.

“I’d prefer the governor be a leader and lead,” Dorn said. “But I think I’m in a unique position to help the state do right by kids. If I don’t do this, I don’t think anything is going to change. In fact it might get much worse.”

If Dorn is governor, he’d not only have to show up at next year’s State of the State address, he’d be the one delivering it.

Political reporter Jerry Cornfield’s blog, The Petri Dish, is at www.heraldnet.com. Contact him at 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com and on Twitter at @dospueblos.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A view of one of the potential locations of the new Aquasox stadium on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 in Everett, Washington. The site sits between Hewitt Avenue, Broadway, Pacific Avenue and the railroad. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
20 businesses could be demolished for downtown Everett stadium

Some business owners say the city didn’t tell them of plans for a new AquaSox stadium that could displace their businesses.

Kathy Purviance-Snow poses for a photo in her computer lab at Snohomish High School on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Snohomish, WA. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
To ban or embrace ChatGPT? Local teachers fight AI with AI — or don’t

“It has fundamentally changed my teaching in really stressful and exciting ways,” an EvCC teacher said. At all levels of education, ChatGPT poses a tricky question.

In this Feb. 5, 2018, file photo a Boeing 737 MAX 7 is displayed during a debut for employees and media of the new jet in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
FAA gives Boeing 90 days to develop plan to fix quality, safety issues

The agency’s ultimatum comes a day after a meeting with CEO Dave Calhoun and other top Boeing officials in Washington, D.C.

A man walks by Pfizer headquarters, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in New York. Pfizer will spend about $43 billion to buy Seagen and broaden its reach into cancer treatments, the pharmaceutical giant said. (AP Photo / Mark Lennihan, File)
Pfizer backs out of Everett manufacturing plant after $43B Seagen deal

Pfizer finalized the acquisition of the Bothell-based cancer drug developer in December.

SonShine Preschool inside First Baptist Church Monroe is pictured Friday, March 1, 2024, in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
SonShine preschool in Monroe to close at the end of the year

The preschool, operated by First Baptist Church, served kids for 25 years. School leadership did not explain the reason behind the closure.

Cars drive through snow along I-5 in Snohomish County, Washington on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
In March, 7 p.m. sunsets are back for Western Washington

Washingtonians will finally start seeing more sun starting March 10. But a little more winter could be on the way first.

One of the parking lots at Stevens Pass Thursday afternoon on December 30, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Stevens Pass to charge $20 for parking reservations on busy days

Two-thirds of spaces will remain free for early arrivers on weekends. Cars with four or more occupants can also park free.

Lynnwood
Days after shootout with Lynnwood police, suspect checks into hospital

Police learned the 18-year-old was in a hospital in Portland, Oregon. His alleged role in the shooting remained unclear.

Everett
Snohomish County pharmacy tech accused of stealing 2,500 opioid pills

Rachel Langdon stole oxycodone while working at a Snohomish County pharmacy, according to state Department of Health allegations.

Patrick Kunz speaks during his sentencing on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington.(Annie Barker / The Herald)
Everett gymnastics coach who spied on students sentenced to 6 months

Patrick Kunz, 47, pleaded guilty to charges of voyuerism and possession of child pornography last month.

Traffic moves along Highway 526 in front of Boeing’s Everett Production Facility on Nov. 28, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / Sound Publishing)
Everett transgender mechanic alleges Boeing treated her ‘like a zoo animal’

For years, Boeing allowed toxicity “to fester and grow” at its Everett factory, according to Rachel Rasmussen, an employee from 1989 to 2024.

Everett police officers survey the scene of a shooting along East Casino Road on Friday, Oct. 13, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Washington’s 5th police academy could be in Snohomish County

A new academy in Northwest Washington would help clear a lengthy wait list for new police hires to get training.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.