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News / Clark County News

Superintendent of public instruction withdraws from levy lawsuit

Evergreen Public Schools 1 of 7 districts named by previous superintendent

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter
Published: January 11, 2017, 8:51pm

On his first day as the state’s superintendent of public instruction, newly elected Chris Reykdal withdrew the department’s involvement in a lawsuit against a handful of Washington school districts.

The lawsuit, filed by previous Superintendent Randy Dorn, alleges that seven school districts, including Evergreen Public Schools, unlawfully spent local levy dollars on teacher, administrator and classified staff salaries.

Such practice, Dorn argued, violated the state Supreme Court’s 2012 McCleary decision, which compels the Legislature to fully fund basic education by 2018.

“The court, however, has never held that school districts are prohibited from using local levies for employee compensation,” Reykdal wrote in an OSPI statement. “During the 2017 legislative session, it will be critical for the Legislature to both amply fund basic education and clearly define in statute what basic education compensation is and is not.”

Dorn’s lawsuit was filed in King County and also named Seattle, Everett, Bellevue, Spokane, Tacoma and Puyallup districts.

Gail Spolar, Evergreen district spokeswoman, said the district’s focus Wednesday was on responding to the week’s snowstorm. But, she noted, because there are other plaintiffs, “this doesn’t mean that it’s done.”

In a statement, Reykdal urged the remaining intervening plaintiffs — four citizens who joined the lawsuit after it was initially filed — to withdraw their support for the lawsuit.

“This approach is an unnecessary cost for taxpayers,” he wrote.

John Deeder, superintendent of Evergreen Public Schools, wasn’t available Wednesday, but told The Columbian last summer that the lawsuit was “a tactic” by Dorn to pressure the Legislature into coming up with a solution to fully funding K-12 education.

Pressure indeed is on the Legislature this session to come up with a plan to comply with the McCleary decision — though if the first few days of the legislative session are any indication, that won’t happen easily.

A bipartisan task force charged with recommending legislation reached a stalemate Monday, dividing along party lines on coming up with a proposal.

Columbian Education Reporter