1351: Yay or Nay?

 Update:  it seems I'm not the only one who thinks that I-1351 + McCleary = the push needed to force the Legislature to make real change in revenue sources. 

The somewhat to the left left, Budget & Policy Center, says this:

Without an identified revenue source, I-1351 leaves it up to the legislature to determine how it will be funded. The sheer enormity of the gap between our resources and funding needs means that there is no escaping the need for new revenue. Funding I-1351 and meeting McCleary without additional revenues would be impractical. A cuts-only approach would decimate health care, child care, community colleges and universities, and other investments kids need in order to succeed in the classroom. 

end of update.

I hope that it has not missed anyone's attention that there is again an initiative to lower class sizes in Washington State. Our state's class size?  We are 47th out of 50th in the nation.  (Sadly, just like with McCleary, passage of I-1351 would barely bring us up to the national average.)

I'm going to say upfront - I don't care what the research says in this case.  I believe that parents and teachers know that having a smaller class size can make a world of difference for students and teachers.  That the aim of building relationships and children being known by their teachers is vastly important to learning.   As Yes on 1351 says at their website (quoting from the Seattle Times):

It ain't flashy but it works: Get personal and schools improve.

Throughout the years, this blog has asked parents, "What matters to you?"  I can ask again but over and over (after good teachers and safe buildings), class sizes is always number one and arts is always number two.

Can the Legislature find the funding for this?  Probably not without a new revenue source and frankly, between McCleary and the passage of I-1351, they probably would be forced to create one.  

But I can say all that and still wonder about I-1351- will the second time be the charm?  I want to hope so but if I-728 is any sign, then I-1351 will meet the same fate.   Passed but not funded and certainly not lowering class size.


 You may recall that we did pass I-728 in November 2000 with 72% of the vote.  There was no identified funding.

But did class size go down?  Not really.  There were six allowable uses of the funds:

- Reduce class sizes in grades K-4;
- Make selected class size reductions in grades 5-12;
- Provide extended learning for students in K-12;
- Provide additional professional development for educators;
- Provide early assistance for children who need pre-kindergarten support;
- Provide improvements or additions to school facilities which are directly related to class size reductions and extended learning opportunities.

I can only say that I never saw much of a reduction in class size and that seemed to be the norm in our district.   The Legislature suspended payment of I-728 several times and then repealed it in 2012 because they said there would be other legislation coming to reduce class size.  From The News Tribune:

To comply with McCleary, the Legislature must fully fund reforms it has already adopted, such as lowering K-3 class sizes to no more than 17 students per teacher by the 2017-18 school year. Lawmakers did fund a fraction of this 2010 measure, targeting high-poverty schools first. But they have provided about one-tenth of the more than $1 billion needed.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/10/04/3411630_backers-say-class-size-ballot.html?sp=/99/296/&rh=1#storylink=cpy

The funding for I-728 was the state general fund and the Education Legacy Trust Account

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/10/04/3411630_backers-say-class-size-ballot.html?sp=/99/296/&rh=1#storylink=cpy

Interestingly OPSI had this advice (partial) for districts:

Do's - Honor voter expectations;


-Don't break faith with the voters;
- Don't use new money to "back-fill" holes in budget;


Yes on 1351

No identified funding source is named.

Under its provisions, schools would receive state money based on staffing formulas tied to student enrollment. 

In addition to more money for staff, it would trigger other parts of existing education funding statutes. One example: Local school districts would gain authority to increase their levy taxing authority. (Although from a practical perspective, they might not want to risk voters’ wrath by asking for the maximum.) The Office of Financial Management estimates that if districts do exercise their full levy options under the initiative, it could generate up to an additional $1.9 billion in local revenue from property taxes over the next five years. 

What would it do?- cut class sizes for students in all K-12 grades, phasing them in over the next four years.  By 2018, the class size for K-3 would average 17 and for 4-12, it would be 25 students.
- the initiative also calls for more relief for schools with large populations of F/RL students.
- it would also provide for more counselors, librarians, nurses, TAs and other staff if districts lack the classroom space.  

The idea of these improvements started with the Legislature's Quality Education Council, a group created out of the McCleary lawsuit. The Legislature told the Supreme Court that it would move forward with funding and establishing the QEC which would make recommendations about what would help academic learning.  Reducing class size was one of the recommendations.

The state Office of Financial Management (OFM) estimates 25,334 full-time jobs will be created, including 7,453 more teachers, 17,081 school-based staff and 1,027 workers in school district offices. A couple of hundred jobs in small schools will be eliminated, as well, according to the analysis.

In addition to more money for staff, it would trigger other parts of existing education funding statutes. One example: Local school districts would gain authority to increase their levy taxing authority. (Although from a practical perspective, they might not want to risk voters’ wrath by asking for the maximum.) The Office of Financial Management estimates that if districts do exercise their full levy options under the initiative, it could generate up to an additional $1.9 billion in local revenue from property taxes over the next five years.
Who is sponsoring it?
 The initiative is being sponsored by Class Size Counts, "statewide, grassroots coalition of teachers, parents, students and community leaders.  More than 10,000 people, the majority of them volunteers, worked on getting the signatures to get this on the ballot.

The campaign has raised nearly $3 million, including more than $200,000 of in-kind contributions, and spent $1.5 million, according to Public Disclosure Commission records. Records show the state teachers union, the Washington Education Association, kicked in $1.6 million, while its parent, the National Education Association, added just over $1 million. The rest comes from local teachers union groups and other labor unions, including $100,000 from the Public School Employees of Washington.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/10/04/3411630_backers-say-class-size-ballot.html?sp=/99/296/&rh=1#storylink=cpy

Here's what Randy Dorn, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, had to say in The News Tribune:

“It’s pretty simple to me,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn, who supports the initiative. He believes I-1351 will have the greatest effect where it’s needed most: with struggling students who don’t receive the attention they need now.

Cut class sizes across the board, Dorn says, and high school graduation rates will improve.

But Dorn also cautions that, unless there is a new revenue stream, costs for I-1351 might come at the cost of raises for teachers.

The costs are about $1B a year from 2015 to 2019, coming out at about $4.7B.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/10/04/3411630_backers-say-class-size-ballot.html?sp=/99/296/&rh=1#storylink=
There is no organized opposition to this initiative but who is against this idea and why?

Stand for Children and many Republican legislative districts/legislators as well a few Democratic legislators.  Hilariously, the League of Education Voters, the very people who sponsored I-728 are now against I-1351.   They even say that McCleary is about class size (among other things).  But now their priorities have changed.

Here's an example of one legislator's concern:

State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle, who is running for re-election, said she will personally vote against I-1351. 

“I totally support the substance of I-1351 and have long supported and advocated for reduced class sizes,” she said.

But she said she believes the initiative would tie legislators’ hands as they grapple with the McCleary directive and also try to maintain adequate funding for early learning, higher education, mental health care and other essential services.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/10/04/3411630_backers-say-class-size-ballot.html?sp=/99/296/&rh=1#storylink=cpy

The arguments seem to be that this would be an additional burden on the Legislature which is already grappling with the ramifications of McCleary.  In fact, some believe it would "bust" the budget for the state.

Others, like the hyperbolic Washington Policy Center, see this as a ploy to expand the numbers in the teachers union.  I find that reasoning pretty ridiculous, given the need at many schools to just get back counselors, nurses, etc. that they lost over the last five years.

But WPC does point out that the measure says that school districts don't have to maintain any particular size or teacher-to-student ratio.  

What does the state say on the issue?

The state Office of Financial Management estimates the initiative would add nearly 7,500 teachers statewide, and more than 17,000 other school employees, by the start of the 2018-19 school year.

The "other employees" would be more "school-based staff and district staff."

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/10/04/3411630_backers-say-class-size-ballot.html?sp=/99/296/&rh=1#storylink=cpy


Just Saying said…
It is worth noting that Tacoma has 3 charter schools in their district and the district will transfer $10M to charter schools. As a result, Tacoma will see larger high school classes.
Anonymous said…
at the annual WEA meeting this initiative was 1 of the first things voted on. in my large high school with a lot of busy teachers who do try to keep up on edu-news, this initiative was a typical WEA leader driven out of the blue affair.
I think this initiative is critical to WEA "leadership". Look how completely pathetic they've been on COLAs, on class size (728!), on this reformie garbage evaluation system, on the incessant new useless hoops to jump through to keep your teaching certificate.
I could care less about the legislature being required to do something they should have done long ago. Jeanne Kohl-Welles epitomizes the leafy 'hood liberal who IS good on the issues, and who is completely, totally, thoroughly useless when it comes to rolling back the right wing blather from the Grover Norquists, Newt Gingriches, Tim Eymans and Rodney Toms - of course she's terrified. Boo!
This initiative is really just the latest attempt of an entrenched irrelevant WEA leadership trying to appear not irrelevant - and when they start throwing 100's of thousands of dollars around to the same old parasitic Democratic CON$ultant cla$$ who sell 'em out, over and over and over, they'll get to feel important and they'll get to look like players ... as they get played for their members' hard earned contributions.

Just Sayin, I want to have a whole thread on Tacoma as there is a lot going on there.

I'm voting yes on 1351 without hesitation. Smaller class sizes are hugely important to student learning. I know this from my experience as a student, as a teacher, and now, as a parent.

The funding question is a red herring. It's not our job to solve the legislature's mess for them, or to coddle them after they made years of bad decisions such as underfunding our schools. Washington is a wealthy state with plenty of money to pay for McCleary and smaller class sizes. The legislature can raise the necessary revenue - but only if we show them it's a priority.

Besides, if I-1351 had attached a funding source, legislators would complain about that too, saying it would "limit their options" or some such thing. This is a clear choice. We should vote for what is right, not for what makes politicians' lives easier.
Anonymous said…
The Seattle Times has been carrying on a jihad against Initiative 1351 since it qualified for the ballot. That should be all you need to know to vote YES.

-- Ivan Weiss
Anonymous said…
Too true, Ivan. And the Seattle Times is generally my bellwether as to what I vote for and against. If they are for it, then it probably only benefits the wealthy and elite. If they are against it, then it probably benefits the general public.

Eric B said…
While I'm a yes on the 1351, there is a little bit of be careful what you wish for too. Smaller class sizes are great, but Seattle doesn't have the classrooms to put them in. That said, it's a problem I'd love to have. Other options without reducing class size might include adding more IAs.
Elephant's Memory said…

Let's remember the last time SEA bargained with the district and the district wanted to increase class size.

The district claimed that the desire to increase class sizes, not for budgetary reasons, but as they put it, due to issues of “capacity”. We all know that "reformers" want to increase class size because "class size doesn't matter."

I suspect we'll see more of the same- especially if 1B passes.
Charlie Mas said…
Reformers want to increase class size because that is a way to increase teacher productivity - and thereby reduce costs.
Reformers are all about the money.
They either want to reduce the cost of education (and thus reduce their taxes), or they want to re-direct the money into private hands (and thus increase their revenue).
They have no enthusiasm for anything that doesn't do one of these two things.

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