Update: The Associated Press followed up the story today, quoting Dorn: "I'm Randy Dorn. That's who I am. I don't think people want somebody who's guarding every single word of what they say." More after the jump.
Maybe it was just a matter of timing: Three months after he apologized for his drunk driving conviction, Washington state Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn was complaining last week he wasn't paid enough.
Or maybe it was the example he used to demonstrate how "embarrassing" his salary was - comparing his $121,000 (not including paid holidays, vacation, sick leave, heath care, and full pension) to that of the Mariners' $9-million ace pitcher Cliff Lee. Here's how Dorn put it at the June 22 House Ways and Means Committee meeting on school funding:
I don't wanna tell you how many pitches my salary would pay for for Cliff Lee for the Mariners. It would be embarrassing. Somebody who's responsible for a million-fifty-thousand kids would only add up to a few pitches by a guy for the Seattle Mariners. I should like Cliff Lee. I think he's a good guy. But we have our priorities out of whack. And I'm a sports guy. And I'm tellin' you, it should be embarrassing to our state and the citizenry of the United States that we're only willing to spend what basically [amounts to] a half a game - my salary - to be responsible for a million-fifty-thousand kids. That's where we're at. We're gonna have to reset government and say that education of young people, early learning, and higher ed, is what builds a great nation. We're gonna have to be willing to take some really hard knocks to set those priorities.
Diana Cieslak at the Evergreen Freedom Foundation says Dorn's self-comparison to Lee was "frankly embarrassing" and "didn't go over well, as you can tell by the murmurings in the background" from the video of the event at TVW:
Comment starts at 1:18
Dorn, says Cieslak, "presupposes that the quality and results of Washington's public schools hinge entirely on his leadership." Thing is, the results of that leadership include these outcomes: 28 percent of Washington seniors fail to graduate on time and more than 18,000 students dropped out of school in the 2008-09 school year.
"Instead of worrying about Cliff Lee's salary," she adds, "maybe Dorn should be more concerned about an education system with worse results than the Mariners' winning average." The M's, by the way, may be trading Lee. Taxpayers don't have such an option.
Update: Dorn tells the AP he 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.
Rep. Kelli Linville, D-Bellingham, chairwoman of the Ways and Means 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.