Editorial boards divided on merits, wisdom of lawsuit filed by Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn

Last week ago we wrote of the lawsuit filed by Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn. 

The lawsuit is Dorn’s attempt to ratchet up pressure on the Legislature to satisfy the requirements of the state Supreme Court’s McCleary order to fully fund basic ed.

That was not our opinion; Dorn made it pretty clear in his brief. Since he filed the suit, several of the state’s newspapers have run editorials about the case. Opinions vary.

The News Tribune today writes, “worthy goal, wrong tactic.”

As the highest official in state education, Dorn’s legal maneuver is akin to a general turning toward his troops and shooting seven of them in the foot. These school districts will now be forced to use limited resources to fight a lawsuit.

He hopes to spur action from the legislature, but forcing governance through the judiciary hasn’t worked so well, and Dorn’s recent lawsuit certainly won’t do more than the Supreme Court is already doing.

The Columbian called it a “bold step.”

The crux is that the McCleary mandate did not insist that more money needs to be spent in total; it stated that more money must come from the state, and then local voters can decide how much to spend on levies for add-ons to basic education.

Given the Legislature’s lack of attention to the issue, Dorn’s lawsuit is a welcome turn of the screw, even if its necessity is unfortunate.

The Spokesman-Review is less emphatic, but expresses an understanding of Dorn’s position

Dorn doesn’t trust the Legislature, so he filed a lawsuit that would permanently seal the Legislature’s favorite escape hatch.

The Seattle Times writes, “kudos to Randy Dorn for suing over school funding reform” and acknowledges, 

Dorn’s new lawsuit won’t finish the job, but when combined with other efforts, it creates more pressure.

The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin says the move makes sense.

Given that lawmakers seem to be in denial about the need to overhaul or do away with local levies, this lawsuit — even if Dorn does not prevail — could be enough to get them focused on doing the necessary work.

The Everett Herald writes, “The lawsuit would penalize kids instead of lawmakers.”

Dorn should withdraw his lawsuit and take the advice of his attorney general and allow that process to proceed.

Taken together, the editorials simply state, again, that there’s widespread frustration with school funding and the disparate use of local levies. There’s disagreement on whether Dorn’s lawsuit advances a resolution or not. We’ll stick with what we wrote last week.

McCleary was always going to be the top issue for the 2017 session. The court’s decision to call the state back for a hearing September 7 seen as an attempt to increase pressure. Dorn’s lawsuit adds another bit of uncertainty to the mix.

Uncertainty is rarely a virtue.