As the elected Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction, he helped launch the Core Plus learning initiative based on industry-validated career skills. For this, Dorn should be remembered fondly by thousands of students, their parents, and the industrial business community as Dorn retires as superintendent at the end of 2016.
But, odds are the memories won’t be so kind among many of his colleagues in state government.
A former high school principal, teacher and state legislator, the plain-speaking Dorn is challenging his long-time associates for failing to meet their constitutional duty to fund public education. And he’s backed by a Washington State Supreme Court ruling that presently holds the Washington State Legislature in contempt for failing to address inequities in school funding.
Dorn took a poke at Governor Inslee by refusing to show up for the governor’s State of the State speech that opened the 2016 legislative session. In his empty chair in the front row before the Governor, Dorn left a hand written note, “Reserved for Kids & Students” and claimed state leaders are failing to “show up” for kids.
That was followed up by a guest editorial by Dorn published in the Seattle Times.
In the opinion piece, Dorn faulted a proposal for state leaders to continue studying how to resolve the court’s “McCleary” ruling with action coming in 2017. In his article, Dorn listed a half dozen studies over the past decade that covered the same ground. Dorn demands funding now. “We don’t need another study,” Dorn wrote. “We need strong leadership.”
But public education funding in Washington state is a bewildering tangle of state, local and federal funding streams. The state provides some support for all schools, but most funds are raised locally through property taxes and special levies. As a result, local funding varies greatly from region to region. Equalizing education could cost taxpayers across the state a whopping $4 billion per year.
Inslee’s plan is to work with a legislative task force to figure out by the end of 2017 how to better fund education.
Dorn argues for action now. State government recently passed a $16 billion program for transportation. Dorn argues that shows the state can afford the $4 billion tab to try to bring equity to educational opportunities for students throughout the state. Like the Supreme Court, Dorn argues the state must take the step because the constitution makes education the “paramount” duty of state government.
Dorn also makes a values-based argument that his fellow Democrats need to put more money where their hearts are when it comes to kids.
Dorn will share his views Wednesday, January 27, at the Annual Meeting of the Manufacturing Industrial Council, 3:30-5:30 pm at the Georgetown Campus of South Seattle College. Dorn will speak at 4 p.m., followed by an opportunity to talk with him one-on-one if you choose to do so.
Other regional leaders will be on hand as the MIC sets course for 2016 at the annual meeting. The meeting will include election of MIC officers, a brief report on the MIC work plan for 2016, and an update on continued progress for the long-stymied Lander Street Overpass project in SODO.
The meeting is in Building C, inside Gene J. Colin Education Hall, just off the campus entrance at 6737 Corson Avenue South.
RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions? Call the MIC at 206-762-2470.