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State schools chief Randy Dorn surprised – and not exactly thrilled – with Gregoire plan for public education

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on Jan. 5, 2011 at 1:17 pm |
January 5, 2011 3:37 pm

Maybe it is because he found out about it the same time the reporters did.

Maybe it is because he would become a department head serving under an appointed Education Secretary who is, in turn, appointed by the governor.

Whatever the reason, state Superintendent of Public Schools Randy Dorn expressed opposition to a plan announced this morning to completely restructure the state’s public and higher education organization.

Here is Dorn’s statement, hurt feelings and all…

In a press conference this morning, Gov. Chris Gregoire proposed creating a state Department of Education that would oversee the many “silos” that make up our entire education system, from early learning to K-12 to higher education.

I’m pleased that the Governor is focused on education, and I have worked closely with her on many issues. I agree wholeheartedly that we need to streamline some of the processes.

I’m concerned, first of all, that I heard the proposal the same time as the media did. The conversation I had with the Governor this morning did not reflect what she said in her press conference. And in fact, members of the media were given more specific information than I was given by the Governor.

More than that, though, is that this isn’t a new idea. I’ve been a legislator, and every governor I’ve known has wanted more power. They’ve tried to abolish offices. That is not in our Constitution. Ours is direct election by the citizens of this great state.

The governor can create any staff position she wants. Her proposal, however, would require the State Superintendent to report to a new Secretary of Education. I am an elected official: my boss is the people of this state, not the Governor. That is state law, explicit in Article III of the State Constitution. Would the Governor also suggest that the other elected officials report to a Governor-appointed official?

What troubles me most, though, is that this feels like a smokescreen. The most pressing issue we face is lack of funding. In February 2009, a King County Superior Court judge ruled that basic education is underfunded in the state – and that ruling was based on financial data from two years before. Since then, education has been cut even further. Consolidating commissions and eliminating agencies isn’t a bad idea, but it takes time and energy away from much more pressing issues.

The Governor and I agree on one thing: our future depends on the education of all of our students.”

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