Dorn Files Brief Urging Legislators Back to Olympia to Fully Fund Basic Education
OLYMPIA — July 27, 2015 — State Superintendent Randy Dorn today filed an amicus brief with the state Supreme Court, urging justices to take firm action on education funding.
On June 8 the Supreme Court ordered the Legislature to report on their progress toward fully funding basic education, as required by the state constitution. Dorn’s brief explains why he believes the 2015 Legislature hasn’t made sufficient progress.
“Every elected official, including me, is required to take an oath of office,” Dorn said. “Part of that oath is, ‘I do solemnly swear that I will support … the Constitution and laws of the state of Washington.’
“Many people don’t understand that our state constitution explicitly mentions one — and only one — paramount duty: that the state ‘make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders,’ and that the system of public schools shall be general and uniform.
“The most recent budget passed by the Legislature doesn’t even come close to that. In fact, it increases the state’s dependence on local levies, which the Court has ruled is unconstitutional.”
A random survey of 12 districts highlights the problem. State funding for school personnel is less than those employees’ actual salaries. As an example, the state allocated an average of $31,865 per classified employee in the Bellingham School District for 2014–15. But the district paid, on average, $45,119 for each position. That means the district had to make up the difference by paying the additional $13,254, using local levies.
The problem is compounded by the 2015–17 operating budget. The three percent cost-of-living adjustment that legislators approved applies only to the state-funded portion of each employee’s salary. In 2015–16, Bellingham will have to pay an additional $13,651 per classified position ($13,254 times 103 percent).
“Some districts can pass levies a lot more easily than others,” Dorn said. “This is leading to a situation of haves versus have-nots. In other words, some districts are getting a 21st century education, while others are still getting a 20th century education.
“That’s why I’m calling for all 147 legislators to come back together to work on their paramount duty and produce a general and uniform system.”
In the brief, Dorn cites the need for a special session to address staffing levels, compensation and levy reform. If the Legislature doesn't make adequate progress in that special session, then the State should be enjoined from funding services that aren’t based on constitutional mandates or necessary for the immediate response to issues of public safety or to prevent catastrophic loss of state property.
“Some people think this is a funding issue,” Dorn said. “But it’s bigger than money: It’s about civil rights. We have to make sure that every student — every student — has access to an ample education.”
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the primary agency charged with overseeing K–12 education in Washington state. Led by State School Superintendent Randy Dorn, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine educational service districts to administer basic education programs and implement education reform on behalf of more than one million public school students.
OSPI provides equal access to all programs and services without discrimination based on sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability. Questions and complaints of alleged discrimination should be directed to the Equity and Civil Rights Director at (360) 725-6162 or P.O. Box 47200, Olympia, WA 98504-7200.
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