Superintendent of Public Instruction proposes education budget

It’s late in the session, but Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn thinks there’s still time to throw a new education budget on the table. His plan landed heavily yesterday, as the Seattle Times reports.

Dorn, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, outlined a plan to spend $2.2 billion in the 2015-17 budget cycle, saying that’s what it will take to fulfill the state Supreme Court funding mandate known as the McCleary decision.

That’s a good chunk more than the $1.3 billion put forth by the GOP-controlled Senate and the $1.4 billion by the Democratic-controlled House in their proposed 2015-17 budgets.

While Dorn did not specify where the money for the increased spending would come from, he and State Treasurer Jim McIntire are scheduled to discuss the other side of the ledger at a press conference tomorrow.

This late in the session, it’s unlikely that the proposals will gain much traction, though Dorn has proposed provocative ideas that will doubtless be part of future discussions. For example,

Dorn, a former school principal and state lawmaker, also proposed that teacher salaries be set in statewide bargaining rather than district by district — with his position, the superintendent of public instruction, negotiate on behalf of the state’s 295 school districts.

That’s not something the Washington Education Association finds appealing, however, Dorn may have a solid, substantive point. Increasing state funding to replace local levy support for compensation necessarily entails rethinking the compensation structure.  Here’s how John Stang at Crosscut describes Dorn’s position:

Dorn also proposes collective bargaining between the state government and teachers, either on a statewide basis or by regions. This is because the other reforms would take local levies out of the teacher-pay picture, and put salary responsibility totally on the state. Dorn said regional contracts might be set up because of the different costs-of-living in different parts of Washington. The bargaining would also cover health insurance.

It may be late in the regular session. Well, it is quite late in the regular session. But the discussion of education reform and finance will not be limited to the 2015 legislative calendar. Regardless, Dorn wants to be heard now.

“I just get the feeling that we’re going to be here longer than the next two weeks,” Dorn said.

Maybe. But it’s also probable that House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan had it right when he described the House budget plan as the “high water mark” for education funding. It’s going to be an interesting two weeks.