Outgoing (he’s not running for reelection this year) Superintendent of Schools Randy Dorn has announced he is going to sue several school districts to focus attention on the McCleary decision. In case you don’t remember or haven’t seen the McCleary decision it says, in simplistic terms, that the responsibility of funding education belongs to the State and not local school districts.
Back to Randy. What is he going to sue some districts for? He says that the school districts are using levy money to pay teachers salaries and that they legally can’t do that. It’s interesting that (1) he chooses to do this in his final months of office, and, (2) that he thinks suing the school districts he’s responsible for supporting is the way to draw attention to the issue of school funding. Is he going to give money to the school districts to defend themselves or will the local tax payers (who are already burdened with high taxes) have to foot this cost as well? Is he going to be around when any lawsuit is heard? No.
Apparently he claims that he knows local school districts aren’t at fault and have only been doing what they need to but….they are apparently convenient for his grandstanding?
In case you are not familiar with local school levy’s here’s a quick primer:
- Every four (4) years a school district can ask property owners to agree to pay a fixed amount of money per year to provide funding beyond what the state gives
- Levy money is mostly used to pay for additional teachers beyond what the state authorizes and pays for. For instance, in Clark County WA every school district has more certified personnel than reimbursed by the state. In 2014/2015 Ridgefield had 6% (6) more teachers with Battle Ground having 26% (119) more teachers that the state allows.
How does the State determine how many teachers a school district needs? They have a formula that is used throughout the state.
Why would a district want more teachers than the State allows? The school district Superintendent may have preferences for the teacher:student ration. They may want more counselors. They may want specialists.Thus, every district has different views of what is needed so it would be impossible for the State to be balanced and the local district not need to make adjustments based on their perceived needs.
How would the State give every district what it thinks it wants? This is the issue. Every district sees the world differently. How many people are needed, what courses should be taught, what materials should be used, how much tech they need (is it a computer for every student or share?) and a host of other differences. What makes one districts assessment of needed resources right and another wrong? There is simply no way to accommodate the differences…unless…we make every district follow exactly the same rules and the State runs it all – no local control.
Are there any studies showing that having extra certified personnel improves testing scores or other measures? The simple answer is no.
Should levy’s go away and not be allowed? We think that local levy’s allow the local taxpayers the opportunity for more control. If you throw out local levy’s and the State takes total funding control where does the money come from? Answer – the local taxpayers. Local levy funds come from local taxpayers. If we hand control to the State they can then tell local districts what to do, how to do it and threaten withholding of funds if the local district doesn’t toe the line. This is the same situation that has been going on with the US Dept. of Education. Why would we want to continue to the trend of giving up local control?
Swinging back around to Randy Dorn. His choice to sue the districts (and children) he’s sworn to represent is strange at best and downright wrong in reality. During his terms we’ve gotten Common Core; High Stakes Testing; ESSA and a host of other repressive and damaging programs. He’s been ineffective in working with the legislature and local communities on funding issues. He needs to go quietly into the night and let his successor try to resolve and correct his missteps and failings.