Earlier this week I alerted readers to a showdown that's on the horizon in Olympia. Since that blog, State Superintendent Randy Dorn has sent a letter to Governor Chris Gregoire refusing to submit a budget that includes 10-percent in cuts.
In the letter dated Tuesday, Dorn writes, "I cannot, in good conscience, submit a budget to the Office of Financial Management that is consistent with the requirements that Marty Brown put forth in his instructions."
Marty Brown is the director of OFM.
Dorn writes, "Submitting a budget that cuts 10-percent of what OFM has determined to be non-basic education, would be a violation of my constitutional responsibilities and inconsistent with my oath of office."
The letter goes on to cite a number of state laws which the superintendent says require the state to provide basic funding for things like: full day kindergarten, a reduction in class size in schools that serve a high percentage of low income students and levy equalization monies for local districts.
Dorn wrote to the governor, "I have directed my staff not to submit a list of options to you that would cut the State's payments for basic education by $97.3 million as requested."
The superintendent acknowledges that cuts to his department are unavoidable. To that end he writes, "We will be fiscally responsible and make necessary reductions asked of us in areas where they will be least likely to impact direct support to schools or systems accountability."
A spokesman for Governor Gregoire's office said in response to the letter, "Education is one of the Governor's highest priorities and she's also concerned about education funding. She is looking forward to hearing the superintendent's ideas to support education and working with him in the coming weeks."
With or without a proposal from OSPI the Office of Financial Management has been directed to identify cuts to education for inclusion in a list of options for lawmakers who will meet in special session in November.
In a statement issued late today, OFM says "The issue at hand is how to address a $2 billion shortfall in a supplemental budget. The choices are difficult and we look forward to hearing the Superintendent's ideas toward resolution of the budget challenges. We realize there is a disagreement over what is or is not basic education. For example, there is no credible interpretation that levy equalization has been defined by the legislature to be basic education."