The Washington Education Association’s (WEA) latest effort to fill its already sizable coffers — Initiative 1351 — will cost the state’s taxpayers $4.7 billion, according to a recent estimate by the Office of Fiscal Management. The projected added cost is, of course, ignored in the initiative written by union leaders to trick people into voting for something that sounds good, but will increase their taxes.
The WEA has — quite deliberately — packaged I-1351 under the guise of smaller class sizes (which has proven popular in the past with voters). If successful, that would mean hiring more teachers (and potentially millions more in union political dues).
The News Tribune put it plainly that 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.”
As SHIFT previously reported, I-1351 is not at all about improving education through smaller class sizes. Rather, it is about power and control. The WEA wants to call the shots on state education spending.
The union leaders do not like that in McCleary v. State of Washington, the state Supreme Court left control over how to spend billions more on education up to the state Legislature. Obviously , the last thing the WEA wants is a thoughtful debate on education spending in the Legislature about “reforms, accountability and student outcomes.” By “piggybacking on McCleary” to take the power of the budget away from elected legislators, the WEA gains power and bypasses accountability.
The drafters of I-1351 admit to the WEA’s true agenda within the initiative itself. I-1351 reads,
“This measure would create smaller class sizes for grades K-12 over a four-year period with priority to schools with high levels of student poverty. These annual improvements are to be considered basic education funding that may be used to assist the Washington supreme court to determine the adequacy of progress in addressing the state’s paramount duty in accordance with the McCleary decision.”
And to make sure that budget realities would not get in the union’s way of reaching deeper into taxpayer pockets, the initiative contains a provision that would prevent the Legislature from suspending the unfunded mandate that is I-1351.