Washington state schools chief Randy Dorn isn't shy about saying how his paycheck falls short, recently bemoaning that his six-figure salary is less than the Seattle Mariners' Cliff Lee gets for pitching one game.
“It would be embarrassing,” Dorn told the House Ways and Means Committee last week in comments that have drawn flak. “Somebody who’s responsible for 1,050,000 kids would only add up to a few pitches by a guy for the Seattle Mariners.”
Lee is making $9 million in the last year of his contract.
Dorn’s statements came at the end of testimony that was part of an update on the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
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Rep. Kelli Linville, D-Bellingham and chairwoman of the committee, said she met with Dorn after the meeting to get clarification on his statement.
“I do think it was a very odd analogy to make, and it certainly went over like a lead balloon,” she said.
Dorn said Wednesday he only meant to show there is a lack of commitment to pay for state education properly, and that athletes get disproportionate salaries compared with people responsible for kids’ education.
He said he regretted using himself as an example and that he makes “a good salary.”
“I should’ve used a teacher as an example, and then everyone would have gotten it,” he said.
Dorn said he didn’t even plan on using the analogy until he heard about Lee’s salary on the radio as he was driving into the Capitol.
“I’m Randy Dorn. That’s who I am,” he said Wednesday. “I don’t think people want somebody who’s guarding every single word of what they say. In reality, I know in my heart, I know in my head, that I was trying to make a point that people are choosing to spend resources on things in society that I really don’t think make a difference in this country.”
His statements come a year after he testified before the commission that sets salaries for elected officials and noted that, at $121,618, he is paid less than 121 superintendents of Washington school districts and the head of the smaller Department of Early Learning.
Several other elected officials specifically asked to not be given raises, and while Dorn stopped short of seeking more money, he noted he took a $25,000 pay cut to become state schools superintendent.
At that meeting he said he believed almost everybody in public service was underpaid.
“If you want quality people running your government, I believe you’re going to have to increase the resources to do that,” he told the commission.
Dorn said Wednesday he wouldn’t take a raise if offered one, and that he was just informing the commission about the reality of his job and how his pay compares with that of others around the state. “It’s a salary commission. You’re supposed to educate them,” he said.
State lawmakers have had to patch multibillion-dollar budget holes over the past few years with a mix of cuts, tax increases and state employee furloughs. Dorn’s agency will be closed Tuesday, and more than 400 employees, including Dorn, won’t get paid for that day under the furlough plan.
Dorn was elected in 2008, defeating 12-year incumbent Terry Bergeson. He served seven years in the state House, including a stint as chairman of the House Education Committee; was executive of the Public School Employees union from 1999 until taking his current job, and previously worked as a teacher and principal.