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Dorn hopes to finish race at primary

State superintendent seeking second term

SEATTLE – Randy Dorn expects to win the statewide primary for superintendent of public instruction. His dream is to defeat his four opponents – who have no statewide name recognition – by a big enough margin to make a general election campaign unnecessary.

Terry Bergeson, who Dorn defeated in 2008, made it happen in 2000, when she earned 57 percent of the vote against four unknown opponents who did not raise the money needed to run an active campaign. She advanced to the general election ballot unopposed.

Dorn is the only superintendent candidate this time around who has raised any money to support his campaign, and only two of his opponents say they are actually trying to win. Under Washington’s top-two primary system, the top-two vote getters running for superintendent of public instruction go on to the general election, unless one person earns 50 percent plus one vote.

Dorn wants voters to give him a second term, saying he hasn’t finished meeting his goals. He said he would give himself an “incomplete” grade on the job he’s done as superintendent, but he mostly blames the economy for his less than satisfactory results.

His top goal was replacing the statewide tests with exams that were shorter and moving them online. Some people still complain about the tests, but they have changed and are moving online. His next goal – fully funding schools – is just starting. There’s been a Supreme Court decision and lots of talk but not enough money to make a difference.

Dorn says he has made some progress working with others to expand early learning and opportunities for career and technical education. The eternal optimist says he’s counting on an uptick in the economy to help him reach more goals during the next four years.

The former executive director of Public Schools Employees of Washington, the union that represents about 26,000 school workers who are not teachers, as well as some college employees, also has been a lawmaker, teacher and principal.

Dorn said he could work well with either of the men who are running for governor.

“I’m not worried that either one would be better than the other,” he said, adding that he has endorsed former congressman Jay Inslee, who is a personal friend.

The Washington Education Association, the other big school employees union, has endorsed Dorn again, according to WEA spokesman Rich Wood. The union especially liked his strong opposition to Initiative 1240, the charter schools proposal, Wood said.

Dorn’s opponents agree with him on the issue.

Dorn also has earned the support of one of his opponents.

John Patterson Blair, a former teacher and former Vashon Island School Board member, said he paid the $1,200 filing fee to get on the ballot so that people would read his ideas in the voter’s pamphlet. He thinks Dorn has done a good job in a tough economy.

His main idea is to offer kids and their parents an education savings account that would allow them to choose how their school dollars are spent and give them more control. For example, they could choose a combination of online and classroom learning.

Ron Higgins, a retired engineer who went back to school to get his teaching certificate and now works as a substitute teacher, is another one-issue candidate who says he has no real hope of winning the election.

“Hopefully someone will plagiarize all my good ideas,” Higgins said.

He wants to return the teaching of civics to the classroom because he believes young people are not getting the information they need to run the nation someday.

Two candidates other than Dorn say they believe they have a chance to proceed to the general election: Don Hansler, who also ran in 2008, and James Bauckman. Both have many specific ideas about how to improve Washington public schools.

Bauckman, a teacher and video producer, wants to see more frequent student assessments that result in faster help for struggling students.

“No child should have to fail first before they get special services,” said the former Montessori teacher and administrator. He is a graduate student at Western Washington University, studying education administration.

Hansler, a retired science teacher who also teaches college courses, has some innovative ideas including bonuses for teachers who receive “outstanding” ratings from parents, and a three-level high school diploma that recognizes students who pass the statewide tests but allows those who don’t to get a diploma anyway. He also wants to revise the state testing system.

He has written a book about his education reform ideas. Hansler will send a free copy of “More than a Band-aid” to anyone who asks for one.

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