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State schools chief blasts Legislature for ‘failing’ education funding mandate

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OLYMPIA -- State schools chief Randy Dorn has come out swinging against Olympia lawmakers for failing in their recent session to fully fund public schools.

In a report filed this week with the Washington Supreme Court, Dorn argues that justices should continue to hold the Legislature in contempt, and says it’s time to resort to tough sanctions to get lawmakers to do their job.

“I quit playing 'kick the can' when I was 12,” Dorn said.  “The Legislature is playing kick the can now.  They need to grow up and say here are the real issues.”

Dorn, as the state’s chief advocate for schoolchildren, has been frustrated all year that lawmakers weren’t stepping up to the plate on more school funding, as required by the state’s high court.

Last May, after the end of the first special legislative session, he blasted lawmakers for ignoring the justices' mandate.

“They’re flipping them off, you know, giving them the back of their hand,” Dorn said.  “They’ve done nothing. So, I believe we’re getting ready for a constitutional chaos.”

Dorn admits that lawmakers did approve an additional $1.5 billion for kids, including all-day kindergarten, and lower class sizes in elementary schools.  But they totally failed, he argues, on two big mandates set out by the court:  reducing the reliance on local levies; and approving a plan to solve all schools funding problems by 2018.

“I’m advocating for kids,” he said.  “If I make some adults feel uncomfortable, so be it.”

Others, however, argue that lawmakers did fulfill their duty to kids.  Attorney General Bob Ferguson also reported to justices this week, saying that the Legislature showed enough progress that their contempt citation should be lifted.

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