On his first day, new state Superintendent picks union over taxpayers

During last fall’s election season, I expressed concern that Superintendent of Public Instruction (SPI) candidate Chris Reykdal was too close to the state teachers union. He didn’t waste much time confirming it. His first act after being inaugurated this week was to remove his office from an intriguing lawsuit begun by his predecessor regarding school districts illegally spending local levy funds on salaries.

Previous SPI Randy Dorn caused a lot of heartburn with his lawsuit, but it sought to settle an important question. I wrote in October, “Current Superintendent Randy Dorn took some by surprise when he filed suit against seven large school districts for illegally spending voter-approved levy dollars. He’s not wrong; the way districts are spending the levies is illegal. The point of Dorn’s lawsuit is to force the Legislature to finally fix the problem.”

Reykdal pulled out of the suit right after taking office. He told the News Tribune that he did so because “it’s not helpful” and “it’s costing the districts money.”

There is so much more to the lawsuit, and his decision, than that. This is where concerns that Reykdal would be “too much the union lackey” are proving true. From the News Tribune report:

“Reykdal said Dorn’s suit falsely presumed that local levy dollars can’t be used to provide employee compensation. Just as local school districts can lower class size beyond what the state funds, they can supplement pay beyond the state’s contribution, Reykdal said.”

This fight is really about what pots of money teacher pay can come from. Everyone knows that the state, because of the McCleary ruling, must take on more of the burden of funding teacher salaries from school districts. Whether the amount coming from local districts should be reduced is the dispute. The News Tribune summed up simply, “The state teachers union, the Washington Education Association, opposes new restrictions on teacher salary negotiations.”

The state teachers union’s aim is for the state’s share of teacher salaries to be greatly increased, but without reducing the amount coming from taxpayers in local school districts. Barring that, the union wants to reduce the local amounts by as little as possible.

That would be a huge boon to the teachers union and a big hit to taxpayers, who would see their state taxes increased greatly, but little or no offset in their local property taxes. With his first act as the new SPI, Reykdal picked which side he stands with – it’s not with taxpayers.
-Rob McKenna

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Rob McKenna
Rob served two terms as Washington’s Attorney General, from 2005 to 2013. He successfully argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and negotiated three of the largest consumer financial protection settlements in national history, all involving mortgage lending and servicing. He is a recognized leader in the development of consumer protections on the internet, in data protection and privacy regulation.