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State Schools Superintendent Proposes Taxes for Education

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
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Washington schools chief Randy Dorn says the time has come to raise taxes to increase funding for public education. And he’s prepared to lead the fight.

Dorn styles himself as a bit of a maverick. He says his job is to make adults uncomfortable. He recently gave the legislature a grade of “incomplete” for its first down payment on a Supreme Court decision that says Washington is not adequately funding public schools.

But as a former state lawmaker, Dorn’s been reluctant to publicly prescribe funding solutions. He has said that’s the Legislature’s job, not his. Now that has changed. On TVW’s “Inside Olympia” program, Dorn told me he decided about a month ago to lead the fight for a tax package for education.

“I turned 60. I got three years, three and a half years to make a difference. And I’m teeing it up so people have to pay attention,” he said. “This isn’t just this Legislature’s problem. It’s been a long history of people kicking the can, kicking the can. We cannot kick the can anymore.”

Dorn says the options include: a potential increase in the state property tax, a reduction in preferential tax rates and possibly even a high-earners income tax—something Washington voters previously rejected. 

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.