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Reykdal: OSPI To Dismiss Involvement in Dorn v. State

OLYMPIA — January 11, 2017 — On this, my first day as Washington state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, I have directed agency lawyers to take immediate steps to dismiss the Superintendent of Public Instruction from the Dorn vs. Washington lawsuit.

This lawsuit was filed by my predecessor and others under the apparently false presumption that local school levy dollars cannot be used to provide employee compensation. The Court, however, has never held that school districts are prohibited from using local levies for employee compensation. During the 2017 legislative session, it will be critical for the Legislature to both amply fund basic education and clearly define in statute what basic education compensation is and is not.

Just as local school districts can further lower class sizes beyond the state’s prototypical school funding model, districts can supplement compensation beyond the state’s contribution.

By clearly defining basic education compensation in statute, we can avoid future litigation that stems from a presumption that any and all compensation is “basic” education. We have a remarkable opportunity: We can make a historic commitment to our public schools by ensuring that the state adheres to its primary constitutional obligation. Just as important, we also can empower our local communities to recruit and retain educators and support staff as necessary to reflect their unique needs.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget proposal reduces dependence on local school levies, which effectively substantially reduces the differences in total compensation from one district to the next. I urge the Legislature to follow this approach – it respects local collective bargaining and unique district needs while simultaneously reducing the disparity between districts.

Finally, I want to thank former State Superintendent Randy Dorn for his tireless efforts to draw widespread attention to our education funding crisis. He played a critical role in the more than $2 billion in progress that has been made to date.

Under my leadership, however, our state’s lead education agency will not sue the very districts we are committed to supporting.

I encourage the remaining plaintiffs in the lawsuit to withdraw their support. This approach is an unnecessary cost for taxpayers. There are far more productive uses of our collective energy, such as:

  • working to create bipartisan solutions to meet our funding obligation,
  • fulfilling our moral obligation to close persistent opportunity gaps for students and populations that have been historically and systemically denied equal opportunities in our schools, and
  • meeting our economic imperative to graduate ALL students career and college ready – specifically by building clear pathways to graduation via career and technical education programs.

Washington state’s bright future is a function of our shared commitment to high quality, amply funded public education. It is not made better by excessive litigation that distracts us from our shared interests. It is time for each and every one of us to move forward and make the sacrifices necessary to support each and every student in reaching graduation.

In fact, our State Supreme Court already determined that the state must amply fund basic education as part of its paramount duty.


About OSPI
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 Chris Reykdal, OSPI works with the state’s 295 school districts and nine educational service districts to administer basic education programs and improve student achievement 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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Nathan Olson
Communications Manager
(360) 725-6015 |

The OSPI Communications Office serves as the central point of contact for local, regional and national media covering K-12 education issues.

Communications Manager
Nathan Olson
(360) 725-6015


   Updated 1/11/2017

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