Partisans who generally line up on opposite sides in public education debates have joined hands against the power-grab by the Washington Education Association (WEA) represented by Initiative 1351. From Democrat legislators and the League of Education Voters on the left to the fiscally conservative Washington Policy Center, a variety of groups and individuals have weighed in against the costly I-1351.
Non-partisan voices are now starting to be heard, with Washington State’s Office of Financial Management (OFM) recently releasing its analysis of the fiscal impact of Initiative 1351. Among its findings, OFM estimates that I-1351 would cost the state an additional $2 billion a year to “pay for thousands more teachers and other staff.” In fact, I-1351 is so expensive, “the money needed for the measure goes beyond the estimated McCleary dollars.”
Here’s a little perspective:
In order to comply with the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision, the state Legislature must spend as much as “$5.7 billion more on education through 2019.” OFM estimates that I-1351 would cost the state an additional $4.7 billion through 2019. But, that’s not all. The Washington Research Council predicts that local school districts may spend “as much as $960 million in costs not paid by the state.”
I-1351’s hefty price tag would create 25,561 new staff positions in order to achieve smaller class sizes. Of course, that means $7.4 million a year in additional mandatory union dues for the Washington Education Association (WEA).
The WEA claims that I-1351 is about reducing class sizes, benefiting our children. However, if that’s the WEA’s true intention, then the union is going about achieving the goals in just about the most expensive—and self-serving—way possible. According to the Washington Policy Center (WPC), Washington State already has the capacity to reduce class sizes without raising taxes or adding on costs. WPC writes,
“In year 2013-14, Washington’s public schools spent $11.05 billion to educate 1,020,540 students. Public schools paid a total of 103,815 employees that year. Initiative 1351 backers want a 25% increase in school employees, at a cost of $2 billion a year in new spending, which would likely come from imposing higher taxes on homeowners and working people.
“Yet Washington’s schools are already paying enough adults on staff to reduce class sizes significantly because only 48,974 (47%) of public education employees are classroom teachers. This means fully 53% of school employees are not classroom teachers. If only 5% of the trained educators now working in administrative positions were assigned to help children in classrooms, class sizes could be drastically reduced, all within the current budget.”
The truth is that I-1351 is expensive and unnecessary. It’s not about reducing class sizes. The WEA is not “spending over a million dollars in campaign money to promote Initiative 1351” in order to improve education for our children. Rather, the WEA is spending over a million dollars to pass I-1351 because it is looking for a $7.4 million more per year return on investment (in forced union dues) … at the expense of our children.