More than $39 million and counting.
That’s how much the state has been dinged for not fully funding public education, and tomorrow the Washington State Supreme Court will hold a status hearing on its landmark McCleary Ruling.
Both attorneys for the state and McCleary plaintiffs will argue their cases. Ultimately, it will be up to the justices to decide whether the state legislature has made enough progress to lift the contempt order that’s been in effect since last August.
To complicate matters, it’s an election year. The McCleary funding puzzle, estimated in the $4.5 billion range, will be inherited by the next legislature and next governor. So, where does the next State Superintendent of Public Instruction fit into the negotiation?
“You have the bully pulpit to tell the truth,” Dorn told KING 5 Tuesday.
“I hope the next superintendent doesn't just sit up in the grandstands and just try to root for a good outcome. I hope they get in the arena and fight it out for the kids,” he said.
During his two terms, Dorn has not shied away from speaking his mind. He hopes to use his remaining months in office meeting with superintendents and engaging the public.
“The public just hasn’t gotten a hold of what McCleary is. It’s about equity,” said Dorn. “It’s not an equitable system. This should be a civil rights issue.”
While Dorn has tried to keep pressure on lawmakers, devised plans, even sued the state, ultimately it will be up to the legislature and governor to work out the details and agree on a funding mechanism.
“There’s got to be a revenue vote coming forward in the near future for education. We’re not just going to do revenue votes for transportation,” Dorn said referencing the $16 billion transportation package passed last year.
Dorn believes elected leaders have put roads before kids. As a result, he say he’s firmly against Sound Transit 3, the mass transit expansion on the ballot this fall.
“Now transportation is coming over and grabbing a piece of the property tax that’s supposed to go for education. Can’t do it,” said Dorn who added he’s for mass transit, but not until McCleary is solved.
In a statement to KING 5, a communications director for ST3 calls Dorn's claim mistaken, saying it will not use funds designated for education.
“The legislature needs to suggest a tax system that is fair, stable, and can meet the education needs of children in our communities,” wrote James Canning of Mass Transit Now. “Education deserves to be sufficiently funded. However we cannot ignore the gridlock that exists on our roadways.”
In January, Dorn’s successor will take over. The candidates vying to replace him are State Representative Chris Reykdal (D-Tumwater), also a former school board member, and Tacoma school district administrator Erin Jones, a first time candidate.
Dorn says he’s endorsed Reykdal, because he believes his experience working in the legislature and on the education budget gives him the upper hand.
“You have to get in the door; you have to talk to them, you have to work the legislature, and you have to have access. He knows a great deal more people, and he's kind of been one of those people in the legislature who's reached across the aisle,” said Dorn.
Candidate Erin Jones said while she respects Dorn’s work, the endorsement for Reykdal doesn’t come as a surprise, calling him “an Olympia insider and politician.”
“I have spent my years working directly in classrooms with kids, teachers and administrators,” Jones said in statement to KING 5.
KING 5 is organizing an Inside Politics discussion with both candidates in the weeks ahead. If you have a question for them, send them to email@example.com.
Copyright 2016 KING