State schools superintendent urges court to shut down all public schools

SEATTLE -- Close all K-12 public schools in Washington -- that is the idea from the state schools superintendent.

Randy Dorn says he is fed up with state lawmakers  taking too long to comply with the state Supreme Court's McLeary decision, which requires the Legislature to fully fund  public education.

Since last August, the Supreme Court has been fining the Legislature $100,000 a day until lawmakers come up with a plan to fund schools. Now the fine has grown to $30 million, and it continues to mount until next year’s legislative session.

“Enough is enough,” Dorn said Thursday.

Dorn is waging a war against state lawmakers, urging the state Supreme Court to issue tougher sanctions against the Legislature. In his filing from this week, Dorn recommends five specific things, including shutting down all schools. A closure would impact 1 million children and their families.

“Sixteen billion dollars for transportation. We are saying $4 billion for kids, and we can’t get it done?” Dorn asked.

Dorn is frustrated that lawmakers managed to settle on a transportation package but not on education. He says the progress lawmakers are making is too slow and wants the court to enforce its 2012 ruling.

“Wealthy kids in wealthy districts get a 21st century education; poor kids in a poor district don’t get the same advantage as those kids,” Dorn said.

State Sen. Reuven Carlyle, D-Seattle, said Dorn’s recommendation to shut down schools is irresponsible.

“We are not shutting down schools in this state. We have a grown-up problem, it’s up to grown-ups to fix it. We are not going to punish 1 million elementary, middle and high school students,” Carlyle said.

Dorn said it's not an empty threat, He also wants the court to fine every legislator and he's done the math.

“They can fine legislators instead of fining you and me the taxpayers -- that's $700 per day for individual legislator; that will get their attention,” Dorn said.

“It’s no question it’s frustrating and no question legislators have not stepped up to the plate but we are not going to do it under the pressures of closing schools,” Carlyle said.

Summer Stinson, a mom with the group Washington Paramount Duty, hopes it will never get to the point of a shutdown.

“Hardship for a lot of families, there are other options,” Stinson said.

Stinson’s organization filed a briefing asking the court to get rid of 600 corporate tax exemptions totaling $300 billion every two years to fund schools.

“There is no question our Swiss cheese tax structure is categorically a mess so it's an interesting idea,” Carlyle said.

Dorn and Carlyle support cutting tax breaks.

Carlye believes a fix is near but Dorn isn’t waiting around.

“They have (until) 2017 before (a) shutdown of schools,” Dorn said.

Dorn also says it is unconstitutional to use local levies to fund basic education. He said he plans to file a lawsuit in that matter in about three weeks.