Randy Dorn, state superintendent of public instruction, is suing Washington state and seven school districts, including Seattle Public Schools, for using local levy funds to pay for basic teacher salaries.
In a statement, Dorn said, “This is not a step I want to take. … From district superintendents to newspaper editorial boards, the same message emerges: The current system is unfair and illegal, and it leads to advantages and disadvantages.”
Dorn also said that districts are at the whim of the Legislature, but as they are not included in the McCleary v. State of Washington they are not held responsible for unconstitutionally using local levies to pay for teacher salaries.
Dr. Larry Nyland, superintendent of the Seattle Public School District, said in a statement that the district is reviewing the suit and will coordinate with other districts to respond.
“Our district negotiates fair, competitive wages to attract and retain quality educational professionals,” Nyland said in a statement. “We will continue to locally support and promote student achievement while we wait for the Legislature to fully fund education and fulfill their duty.”
In the McCleary case, some districts were found to be paying basic teacher salaries with local levy funds. The Washington State Supreme Court held this unconstitutional as levies are not a reliable source of funds since their passage is determined by voters.
Last year the legislature passed a bill stating that a work group would create recommendations in order to mitigate school districts’ reliance on local levies to pay for teacher salaries. This was done in order to address the determination by the court that Washington was constitutionally underfunding basic education within the state.
On July 14, the Washington State Supreme Court ordered the plaintiffs and defendants to appear in court on September 7 to determine what the state has done and needs to do in order to fully fund basic education by the 2018.
Dorn’s elected term ends this year and he is not seeking re-election.