SEATTLE — Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn said Monday he will decide in the next month whether he’s going to run an independent campaign for Washington governor.
The state needs more leadership to fix its education system from preschool through college, Dorn said, and he thinks he could be the person to provide that leadership.
He says lawmakers and the other serious candidates for governor — Gov. Jay Inslee running for re-election as a Democrat and Bill Bryant running as Republican — are relying on “really optimistic, wishful thinking” to find the money to increase the state’s education budget.
“I think that’s dangerous to the state,” Dorn said, adding that the public would like to see more straight talk from the governor’s office.
In addition to Inslee and Bryant, four other people have registered their campaigns with the state Public Disclosure Commission.
Dorn also promised his campaign would keep things interesting. “If I’m a candidate for governor, I guarantee I’d be the most interesting candidate,” he said.
He criticized Gov. Jay Inslee for not coming up with his own plan for finding the money to pay for the changes needed to meet the Washington Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary decision on education funding.
The court has held the state in contempt over the Legislature’s failure to make a plan for resolving the remaining issues over paying the full costs of basic education, while ending its overreliance on local tax levies.
Bryant said he agrees with Dorn about Inslee’s record on education and the McCleary decision.
“Gov. Inslee has demonstrated zero leadership on education. Education was an issue in the Inslee-McKenna campaign. Candidate Inslee promised a plan. Four years later, he still has no plan,” Bryant said on Monday.
Inslee convened a bipartisan task force that met between the end of the 2015 legislative session and the beginning of the 2016 Legislature and came up with a plan that was adopted by lawmakers and signed by the governor at the end of February.
Dorn says that’s not enough. He wants the governor to tell lawmakers how much money is required to fully pay the cost of basic education and then help them find the money that he estimates would add up to at least $4 billion every two-year budget cycle.
“I just want to tell people the truth. I don’t care what’s politically correct,” Dorn said.
Inslee has made several suggestions for new or increased taxes to pay the costs of the McCleary decision, including money to hire more teachers and cover most of the costs now paid for by local school levies. But the Legislature has not adopted Inslee’s budget ideas.
Dorn has tried to influence the Legislature on this issue as superintendent, but he hasn’t gotten most lawmakers to even agree on the price tag for the McCleary costs.
Dorn has been elected twice as superintendent of public instruction and does not believe it would take a lot of money to launch a campaign for governor.
He raised about $250,000 for his last campaign four years ago and about $350,000 for his first campaign in 2008, when there was also an independent expenditure to support his campaign.
Dorn said he thinks social media could be employed for almost nothing, and he has had people approach him about donating money to help with a campaign for governor.
He would need to declare his candidacy and register with the Public Disclosure Commission to start accepting any campaign money or spending it. Inslee has already raised more than $4 million for his campaign, and Bryant has raised more than $1 million, according to the commission.
To get on the ballot, candidates must register with the Secretary of State’s office between May 16 and 20.