Jay Inslee finally decided to take a public stance on the Washington Education Association’s (WEA) so-called smaller class size initiative, Initiative 1351. The problem is, he didn’t really say anything at all.
Speaking at the Association of Washington Business 2014 Policy Summit yesterday, Inslee answered a question concerning the potential cost of I-1351. Additionally, he was asked whether or not he supported the initiative. After admitting he was unsure of the cost, Inslee went onto ramble of the benefits of smaller class sizes to the education of children — all while avoiding the question. Ladies and gentlemen of Washington State, here was your governor on display:
As a grandfather and as a parent, I would like smaller class sizes for our children in every single grade. I think smaller class sizes almost always, I can imagine, better than larger class sizes… Particularly, get in the lower grades, this is particularly effective and we oughta make it a particular priority, if we are reducing class sizes, to focus on the early grades were the research shows it’s much more effective. So, I have an interest in increasing—or decreasing class sizes. But I do have to tell you that the priority has to be financing the McCleary decision and that’s about a $4 billion slug on top of the billion dollar structural shortfall we have and it’s difficult to see how that can be financed in the first biennium. So, that’s where I am.
So, Mr. Inslee, “where I am” is exactly…where?
As SHIFT reported in the past, Inslee’s own Office of Fiscal Management estimates that I-1351 would cost state taxpayers $4.7 billion – perhaps he could read that analysis to help him answer the question on the initiative’s cost. Moreover, despite its stated objective, I-1351 is not at all about improving education through smaller class sizes. Rather, it is about power and control—the WEA’s attempt to call the shots on state education spending.
The News Tribune put it best when it plainly stated, “The measure would require hiring 12,000 new teachers plus a legion of administrators, librarians, nurses, social workers, psychologists, custodians, “parent involvement coordinators” and, well, you get the idea… It’s a lot of money, a lot of new positions, and – not incidentally – a lot of new union members.”
Of course, Inslee’s failure to take a stance on I-1351—despite all its negatives—is not a surprise. After all, 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 his political fortunes.