Dorn Determined to Go Out Fighting

Update: response from SPS Communications:
In the McCleary versus Washington state ruling, the state Supreme Court directed the state Legislature to provide ample, equitable and dependable basic education funding. Because the state has failed to fulfill its constitutional obligation to fully fund education, Superintendent Randy Dorn has brought a lawsuit against multiple school districts including Seattle Public Schools.
The lawsuit contends that the district is illegally using its local levy funds to pay a portion of teacher salaries. The district is reviewing the complaint and will be working to coordinate with other districts on the suit.

Our district negotiates fair, competitive wages to attract and retain quality educational professionals. We will continue to locally support and promote student achievement while we wait for the Legislature to fully fund education and fulfill their duty.
Additionally, the district is likely to be working with the other districts named in the suit in making a coordinated statement.

end of update.

From The News Tribune:

The state of Washington is a defendant in the suit filed Tuesday by Randy Dorn, Washington’s outgoing state superintendent of public instruction. The school districts named in the suit include Tacoma Public Schools and the Puyallup School District, along with school districts in Seattle, Spokane, Vancouver, Bellevue and Everett.

Dorn, who isn’t seeking re-election this fall, said he filed the lawsuit out of frustration that the Legislature isn’t doing more to comply with court orders to fully fund public schools.

His issue is that districts are using levies to pay for supplemental pay for teachers and that leads to the State not fully funding basic education.  He wants courts to order districts to stop using that funding and that, in turn, will make the districts demand action from the Legislature.

Why did he file?

Only an order of that magnitude will prompt the Legislature this year to find a way to fund market-rate teacher salaries, instead of relying on local school districts to make up the difference, he said.

Read more here:

In a statement, Tacoma Public Schools officials said they “understand the goal behind the lawsuit; however, we completely disagree with the approach.”

Read more here:

Read more here:

Read more here:


NO 1240 said…
I find it laughable that Dorn seeks to uphold the Constitution. He is the same individual that worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Washington Charter Association to undermine our democracy and high court ruling related to charter schools.
Anonymous said…
As a teacher, this is so depressing to me. I don't believe that the state will ever pay a livable wage to work in Seattle. I very much appreciate the levies that people in Seattle have passed to support education and teachers. I know that McCleary is supposed to address these issues, but I assume when they are finally addressed, that my wages will stagnate if the only wages I get are from the state. I don't for a minute trust the state to pay teachers a livable wage.
Anonymous said…
Agreed, No on 1240. Cherry picking constitutionality just like charters cherry pick kids & data.

Anonymous said…
So you have a problem with cherry pickers? What about apple pickers?

Anonymous said…
Is looks like Dorn is using the same lawyer who sued SPS in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1. In that case, the US Supreme Court struck down SPS's student assignment plan that used individualized racial classifications to achieve diversity.

The same lawyer also represented Charter Schools in League of Women Voters of Washington v. State. In that case the Washington Supreme Court determined that I-1240, the Charter School Act, violates Washington's Constitution.

The same lawyer also represented Dino Rossi, when he sued to challenge the Governor's election.

I'm seeing a pattern of this attorney being on the side of conservatives and Republicans. He keeps to the party line. So, why is he representing Dorn here? That gives me great pause. And what seems like a questionable idea at first suddenly becomes a more nefarious scheme. No longer do I think that Dorn and his attorneys are simply suing to get the state to fully fund education. They are after state-wide bargaining and they view this lawsuit as a vehicle to get it.

-Ballard Locks
Charlie Mas said…
I don't like this strategy at all.
The idea is to create an even greater, more dire crisis in the hopes of inspiring the legislature to action. The problem is that I disbelieve that that legislature can be inspired to action this way.

It reminds me of the sequestration rule in the US Congress. If The Congress can't agree on a budget, then the Republicans get what they want: cuts across the board. How does this create an incentive for them to do anything but obstruct. In Mr. Dorn's case, if he wins, taxes are cut and teachers, students, and families suffer. That's exactly what the conservatives in the legislature want. Why would getting what they want inspire them to action?
Eastern Silence said…
It seems to me that the only way this would make a difference would be to sue the school districts served by obstructionist legislators. Are any of the red districts relying on levy funds? Right now, they are not feeling any pressure from their communities on this. You'd think that there would be unity from all parents in Washington state. Not so. Nary a peep from PTAs or parent groups in red districts. There is a belief that McLeary only benefits us "rich" folks in Seattle.
Anonymous said…
I would like to hear how the new superintendent candidates feel about this strategy of suing districts that raise funding in order to force the legislature to act. I am concerned that it may not result in the intended outcome. What if it instead it sets the stage to induce public support for more corporate control of our public K-12 education system?

-concerned citizen
Anonymous said…
Eastern Silence, who are these "obstructionist legislators" to which you refer? Was there a vote on a revenue package in the legislature that we could look to "no" votes to identify these people? Did the Democrat-led House majority offer a revenue package for such a vote? Are you sure the obstructionists are all from "red districts" and Republicans?

Of course all of my questions are rhetorical. There were no such votes. These blue district and Seattle representatives didn't offer a revenue package to support McCleary.

Red Bully
Anonymous said…
Ballard Locks and Charlie: I agree with you both. I think that the impetus behind this is far from benign. My reasons:

1. I agree with BL that Mr. Korrell's history is almost exclusively on the side of charter proponents and other anti-public / anti-union forces. Nary a peep out of him or his clients that I can recall EVER in support of McCleary in the past -- and no reason to think that this suit is truly in support of McCleary now. I think this is more like "disaster politics" where you don't let a good crisis go to waste.

2. I don't know whether the "goal" they hope to achieve from this crisis is statewide bargaining (as suggested by someone) or whether it is just continued degradation of public schools -- because for the privatization of public education to occur, two things are needed: First -- you have to make public funding of private charter schools "legal," which WA is struggling with, though the battle is well over in many other states. Then -- since you intend to provide (ultimately) an inferior product and to remove any ability of parents and other citizens to have any control or say-so over kids' education (except as consumers -- the way you can "choose" whether you want a Whopper or a Big Mac) -- you also have to destroy the value of the "alternative" product, the public school system. We see this in state after state that has gone all in for charter schools. One GOOD way to destroy public schools in Washington is to further impoverish the teachers in the big urban systems -- the districts that have to pay more to keep up with the cost of living, the challenges of teaching in high poverty urban schools, etc. This also has the benefit of lowering taxes -- because we cannot get increased McCleary funding through the Republican controlled Senate -- and if we also cannot raise local money to fund schools, we will be "taxed less" (even though we would willingly pay more) -- and the teachers and schools will be further impoverished.

3. The extraordinary salaries being paid downtown, coupled with the larding of the downtown departments with ever more and more administrators, which ALSO bleeds the schools dry, is also part of this effort. The more you pay the paper shufflers at the top, the less there is for the actual teaching being provided at the school level. It is intentional and systematic. It gathered much of its strength under MGJ, but has not let up under the subsequent regimes -- and won't under the current Supe, unless the board demands a transparent budget and tells downtown how much they get (total) -- leaving to the Supe the discretion as to how to deploy his central office dollars.

4. Finally, I think that common core and the push to force all children to take long, meaningless, expensive tests that you have predetermined that most will fail, is also part of this effort. It is enhanced by the fact that in order to try to boose the passage rate, public school teachers are forced to abandon good teaching practices and common sense to spend time in days of frustrating, boring, largely meaningless test prep. Just another way to ruin the product so that people will not expend the time, energy and money to try to preserve it when the vulture capitalists come calling.

I wish I could feel confident that the State's judges would see through this ploy -- and refuse to go along.

And yes, Red Bully, I am quite sure that virtually all the obstructionists are from "red districts" and Republicans. If both houses were under Democratic control, there would have been a revenue package to try to resolve this. But it is pointless for the Democrats to float one out there to be shot down by people whose mantra is -- no new revenue, ever. Hence, all the action (such as it is) has gone on behind closed doors in hopes that at some point, they can propose something that will actually pass -- and not just be used as campaign fodder by the other side.

Blue Jelly
Anonymous said…
Blue Jelly, both houses (and the governor's office) were under Democratic control for years! How'd we get to this place then if all of the obstructionists are Republicans? The fact is that you are not "quite sure" but in fact surmising so. It sounds more like you're excuse making.

Red Bully
Another Name said…

Ballard Locks provides interesting information.

I think Randy Dorn is trying to throw a monkey wrench into McCleary, and there will be an attempt to restructure teacher compensation- and possibly- teacher CBA at the state level. End of local control??

The Seattle Time tells us that Erin Jones may be part of the plan:

"Jones has an independent voice that could help lawmakers work toward a compromise on reforming the state’s teacher compensation system."
Anonymous said…
Another Name has it right about what Dorn is up to here. He's trying to force a levy swap while also intensifying the attack on WEA. The name of the game is "statewide bargaining" which means the legislature can keep teacher salaries low and prevent things like SEA rolling back testing mandates and getting more recess for kids. Not surprised Erin Jones is part of this project. But then I'm not so easily fooled as others.

Yellow Belly
Another Name said…
I've not forgotten the Roanoke Convention. I've heard that there will be an attempt to get vouchers into Washington state.

We have: Levy cliff, levy swap and Dorn's lawsuit which will probably bring attempts for state wide CBA etc. This is going to be one heck of a legislative session.

I've not seen Erin Jones articulate any type of a reasonable plan to fund education. She hasn't said much about merit pay and other controversial forms of education reform.
Anonymous said…
Usually, the AG's office represents the state or its executives when the executive is involved in a lawsuit based on his actions in his official capacity. Here, Dorn is suing the state. Is this why Dorn has two private lawyers at one of the largest law firms in Washington? Who is paying Davis Wright Tremaine's legal bills?

Also, wasn't Davis Wright Tremaine the law firm the Republicans hired to run the investigation of the corrections department? Didn't the law firm submit huge bills to the Republicans? I really want to know: is Davis Wright Tremaine doing this pro bono or are they getting paid? If they are getting paid, and I'd guess they are, who is paying the legal fees?

-Pink Telly
Anonymous said…
Pink Telly: I am not the guru of FOIA (or state equivalent) information requests -- but I wonder if that information is not obtainable on request.

Red Bully: I agree that very little was done initially to fix this problem years ago -- but I think that the big inducements to move 2 Democrats into the "majority coalition" in the Senate a few years back were precisely to stop things like compliance with McCleary by raising revenue. I agree that Dems aren't always up to the task of being the only adults in the room. But they would have acted by now, if they had had the right to. Remember too, please, that for some of the years that Democrats were in control, the legislature was operating under an unconstitutional law requiring legislative supermajorities for raising taxes.

Say what you will, the "right wing" and "Republicans" have by far the biggest role in the current mess.

Blue Jelly
Another Name said…
Baumgartner (R) is one of the biggest reasons McCleary hasn't been funded. He is known for telling the Supreme Court to "pound sand".

I did hear Baumgartner say that he'd be happy to support McCleary if the state managed teacher retirement plans and pay.

So, there you have it. Dorn begins the process.

I'm sure Dorn's lawsuit is intended to help swipe Seattle's levy dollars. If you are not concerned, you haven't been watching.
Uh, Baumgartner does not have the choice to "support" McCleary. He and all his colleagues are under court order to get it done. Not how, or what it looks like but fund it. Are teachers salaries part of that? Sure but he cannot hold up the whole thing for the one thing he "thinks" should change/get done.

I believe Dorn has some long game plan in mind (for himself) and may be laying the groundwork. This should be a huge heads up about what is happening behind closed doors for public education.

I see this as a trend for both the state and the district and I'm feeling a growing concern.
Stinky Fish said…

Harry Korrell is the attorney working on Dorn's lawsuit. More information:

"Attorney Harry Korrell, who appeared on behalf of the I-1240 campaign, argued for ballot language that said the measure would “allow” rather than “authorize” up to 40 charter schools. Sutton said she believed “authorize” was a term that better described what the measure does.?
Another Name said…

Last year: Jamie Lund of The Freedom Foundation applauds when Dorn calls attention to use of levy funds to pay teachers:

This year:

"This lawsuit is going to force the state and school boards to look at the aggressive approaches of union negotiators, and to put a stop to them.

Dorn's lawsuit is not about putting a "fire" under legislators and forcing them to fund education. Dorn's lawsuit is about ending local union negotiations.

Another Name said…

Eastern Silence makes a good point:

"Are any of the red districts relying on levy funds?"

It would be wonderful to have a list of all districts using levy dollars for teacher compensation. Why would only a few districts be called-out? Would a court ruling be restricted to just parties involved in lawsuit?

Or, is Dorn just going after the districts that have the dollars to obtain a levy swap?
The Times is supporting Dorn in this effort which, of course, makes it even more suspicious.

I left a comment there and said that voters in other cities/regions could have voted in their levies. I realize that many other areas are poorer than Seattle but given the continuing pattern of thumbs down in some regions, it may have more to do with politics than money. It is choice by voters.

Thank goodness the voters in Seattle support our public schools; I shudder to think where we would be without them.
Anonymous said…
Blue Jelly, you have certainly created a nice little narrative and re-write of history. Who was in the majority in 2008-09 when massive cuts were made to education funding? The Democrats, of courses. And since the MCC took control of the Senate, the legislature has made the largest increases in education funding in the history of the state (plus cut higher education tuition for students and funded huge investments in early learning).

So, how again do Republicans "have by far the biggest role in the current mess"? It seems like to me they are the adults in the room who are actually getting things done. The Dems, as I stated previously, have had long periods in the majority and have been a unmitigated disaster for education and education funding.

Why you're continuing to demonize the very people who are working toward the solution is beyond me. It's not really, though. You've already decided that Democrats are good and Republicans are bad. No reason to let pesky things like facts get the way of your narrative.

Red Bully
Charlie Mas said…
It would not necessarily be a bad thing to have teacher pay negotiated at the state level. A reasonable system would have a base pay and a cost of living multiplier.

Say the base pay were $40,000 for a teacher at a certain level of experience and education. That amount would then be multiplied by a Cost of Living Adjustment based on the actual cost of living in the teacher's community (determined through a defined formula).

Not only would this structure allow teachers in both Seattle and Yelm to be paid a living wage but it would build a cost of living adjustment into the pay structure. As the cost of living rose annually, so would the teachers' pay.
Anonymous said…
All the pieces fit now. Jami Lund of the Freedom Foundation endorses Erin Jones. Jami Lund praises the lawsuit because it'll force teacher pay to be slashed. The Seattle Times says Erin Jones is willing to look at statewide bargaining. Randy Dorn hires a lawyer who attacked Seattle's desegregation policy and went to court for charter schools and works with the Freedom Foundation to sue local districts which - through no fault of their own - rely on local levies to prevent good teachers from fleeing the district. The Seattle Times praises the lawsuit.

Oh, and Chris Vance - former Republican Party chair and current Republican candidate for U.S. Senate - is a special adviser to Dorn at OSPI.

There is a growing conspiracy here. The goal is to force statewide bargaining for teachers. They watched with horror as Seattle parents rallied behind their teachers and made big gains in pay, in reducing high stakes tests, in getting back lunch and recess time. So the folks backing this lawsuit are counterattacking. Statewide bargaining would make it easier, they believe, to impose terrible things on our schools and make it harder for teachers to resist. Teaching to the test. Huge class sizes. No more recess and barely any lunch. Unqualified teachers. And so on.

After all...where did Dorn get the money to pay for this suit?

Yellow Belly
I queried OSPI and this was the answer:

"OSPI is putting in $100,000 toward the lawsuit, Melissa. We’re trying to find partners to help with funding beyond that, but I don’t have any information on whether we’ve been successful."

I don't even know what to say to that. Why is Dorn so hellbent on this lawsuit that he started it without knowing how it would be fully paid for? Or does he know he will get partners? I can almost guess who would give him money.
Anonymous said…
Erin Jones has supported the idea of charter schools in the past. Not sure where she stands on them at the moment.
Green Jelly Belly
Anonymous said…
Green Jelly Belly
Anonymous said…
Say what on the financing of this lawsuit? Dorn is trying to get funding lined up, but in the meantime a huge law firm is suing the state and seven school districts without a source to fully cover the legal fees? That would not add up, except in this case, said law firm is Davis Wright Tremaine. Like Yellow Belly artfully did above, let's look at the facts and then we can form our opinions.

Most significantly, the chair of Davis Wright Tremaine's litigation department is the "general counsel to the Washington State Republican Party and represents clients in election and political disputes, advising both candidates and political committees."

A few months ago, Davis Wright Tremaine wrote off an unknown amount in legal fees after the firm continued work on the Corrections Investigation after the Senate Republicans hit the ceiling of the amount authorized for the suit.

Davis Wright Tremaine also wrote off $276,000 for their services when the firm represented the Republicans when they sued over Dino Rossi: This was after Chris Vance raised money to pay the firm hundreds of thousands. "In his final month as GOP party chair, Chris Vance took a run at the debt, making payments from party accounts worth $360,000 and getting fat-cat allies to make payments directly to Davis Wright Tremaine totaling $140,000." Chris Vance is or was an advisor to Randy Dorn. Will he make the same arrangements for paying off and getting the firm to write off the legal fees here? That $100,000 is likely to run out sooner rather than later.

What's shocking is that the PDC doesn't require the Davis Wright Tremaine's legal fee write offs to be claimed and disclosed as a political contribution. "The reduction in the bill is not considered a political contribution, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission. Rather, under Washington Administrative Code, Davis Wright Tremaine's fee reduction is called a "donation" and does not have to be listed on the GOP's reports of financial activity."

Based on all of this, my opinion is that the Washington State Republican Party and Davis Wright Tremaine have a tight relationship that doesn't get full scrutiny because the law firm's write offs don't have to be listed as political donations. Who is really bankrolling this? It may very well be the Washington State Republican Party and Davis Wright Tremaine.

-Pink Telly
No 1240 said…
State Superintendent Randy Dorn has filed a lawsuit against school districts for using levy dollars for teacher salaries.

Harry Korrell of Davis Wright Tremaine has filed the lawsuit. We know that Korrell was involved with I 1240 and the fight to protect charter schools.

The Supreme Court declared I 1240 unconstitutional and we know that Randy Dorn altered ALE rules to allow the flow of taxpayer dollars into schools formed under an unconstitutional law. There is reason to believe that Randy Dorn worked with Rob McKenna on this little project.

I am not at all surprised to see that Korrell has contributed thousands of dollars to Rob McKenna's campaign. As well, Korrell had made campaign contributions to Ed Murrary- a corporate backed Democrat.

Thanks to Melissa and Charlie for hosting this blog, and to those that contribute. Such a wonderful way to share and gather information.

Another Name said…
"Oh, and Chris Vance - former Republican Party chair and current Republican candidate for U.S. Senate - is a special adviser to Dorn at OSPI."

Yellow Belly is 1000 percent correct.

I believe the puzzle pieces of Dorn's lawsuit are coming together.

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