Randy Dorn hasn’t announced that his second term as state schools chief will be his last, but several people who assume he’s not running for re-election next year are setting their sights on the job.
Dorn isn’t discouraging potential successors.
The Eatonville lawmaker who became a vocal critic of the Legislature on school funding said Thursday he’s leaning against running but is waiting to see how the Washington state Supreme Court responds to the latest state budget that adds $1.3 billion for basic education.
Dorn has asked the court to force lawmakers back to Olympia to try again.
“They still need to have a true irritant in their hip pocket,” Dorn said of his role.
Even without certainty about Dorn’s decision, state Rep. Chris Reykdal, D-Tumwater, announced his bid Thursday, joining Tacoma Public Schools official Erin Jones of Lacey as declared candidates.
Former Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, said he is strongly considering a run.
Washington’s nonpartisan superintendent of public instruction leads a state agency devoted to public schools.
Only Jones said she was sure to run regardless of Dorn’s decision. Seaquist said he wouldn’t challenge Dorn. Reykdal said he would have to reconsider his options if Dorn runs.
Reykdal is an administrator in the state system of two-year colleges. In two terms in the House, he has advocated for fewer required tests for students and more sources of tax revenue for the state.
“We are one recession away from unfortunately having to unravel a lot of the excellent work we’ve done, without a more sustainable commitment of revenue to our schools,” Reykdal said. “There isn’t enough marijuana in the world to sustain education funding.”
Jones is a former teacher who has worked as an administrator in the state superintendent’s office and in Federal Way. She twice tried out to play in the Women’s National Basketball Association.
Jones says student test scores shouldn’t factor into teacher evaluations, as is now required under state law. She said state leaders didn’t think through the consequences of some of the graduation requirements they have set around credits and testing.
Like Reykdal, she is especially critical of the state’s requirement that students pass a biology test to get a high school diploma.
“The idea that a biology exam could hold a kid back from graduation, to me, it’s problematic,” Jones said.
Legislators delayed the biology requirement for two years as part of a session-ending deal that also delayed implementation of Initiative 1351, the expensive voter-approved mandate to reduce class size and add staff.
Seaquist said lawmakers should have spent their time this year figuring out a way to pay for I-1351, which he said is crucial to meeting the needs of low-income and minority students.
“The Legislature didn’t put the rungs in the ladder for the poor people of this state,” Seaquist said.
A former Navy officer, Seaquist served four terms from a district closely divided along partisan lines and led the House higher education committee before losing his re-election bid last year to Michelle Caldier.