With Initiative 1351 officially passing this week, Washington voters have managed to make “the state’s once-in-a-lifetime challenge and opportunity to more fully fund and reform the state’s education system almost twice as hard.” The Washington Education Association (WEA) was, after all, successful in deceiving voters with the false illusion of smaller class sizes at all grade levels.
The new law identifies no funding mechanism, as SHIFT has reported. That fact “threatens to tie lawmaker’s hands in making the right investments that would best serve the state’s school children.”
During the 2015 legislative cycle, the Legislature faces the challenge of meeting the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision to fully fund K-12 education—that means boosting funding by $5.7 billion through 2019. According to the state Office of Financial Management (OFM), I-1351 “would require an estimated additional $4.7 billion through 2019.”
As the Seattle Times editorial board recently wrote, “Something will have to give.”
Democrat state Rep. Ross Hunter, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, seems to agree. He recently said, “I don’t know how you fund McCleary and 1351.”
In order to meet pressing budget demands, state lawmakers will have to “amend or suspend I-1351, which voters appear to have passed with only 50.7 percent approval.” However, that can’t happen “without a two-thirds vote of the Legislature for the first two years after voters approve an initiative.” The Times notes that I-1351 could be destined to flow the same path as Initiative 728 which was approved in 2000 then suspended, amended and repealed in 2012. Another possible option available to lawmakers would be to return the initiative to voters “on next year’s ballot with a taxing mechanism attached.”
All in all, I-1351 will cause lawmakers a major headache in 2015 that threatens to divert attention away from pressing issues including actually benefitting students by meeting McCleary.
As SHIFT recently pointed out, Jay Inslee waited until it was too late to make a difference to inform Washingtonians that he did not support I-1351. Inslee appears to have thought it was okay to knowingly allow the WEA to deceive voters through its so-called smaller class size initiative if it meant he did not have to step on the toes of his major campaign donor. The WEA donated $1 million to his gubernatorial bid and, as we all know, Inslee likes to give his donors a substantial return on their investments. In this case, Inslee gave the gift of his silence.