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Government and Politics
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Wash. Schools Superintendent Proposes Taxes For Education

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Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
Randy Dorn

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’s said that’s the legislature’s job, not his. Now that’s changed.

On TVW’s “Inside Olympia” program, Dorn said he decided about a month ago to lead the fight for a tax package for education.

"I turned 60," he said. "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. 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.