I-1351: Proposal would cut class sizes, cost billions

Oct 12, 2014 by

Initiative 1351 would ease crowding in Washington’s classrooms, but it carries a hefty price tag that worries even would-be allies.

The campaign for Initiative 1351 makes a simple argument — teachers with fewer students can give them more attention than they can in crowded classrooms.

It’s a message that resonates with many parents — just ask those at Seattle’s Gatewood Elementary who recently raised almost $67,000 in less than a week to keep their first-grade classrooms below 20 students.

But I-1351, backed primarily by the state teachers’ union, would do much more than lower class sizes from kindergarten through high school.

Of the roughly 25,000 new jobs it would create, only about 7,400 would go to classroom teachers.

The rest, about 18,000, would go to everyone else who makes a school run, from principals, school nurses and guidance counselors to janitors, groundskeepers and mechanics.

Ramping up all of those new jobs would cost the state almost $5 billion through 2019 and then nearly $2 billion a year after that, according to the state Office of Financial Management.

That’s a hefty tab considering that the entire current two-year state budget for public education is about $15 billion.

While the initiative would move Washington’s national class-size ranking from near the bottom to about average, the cost is so high that even some of the organizations that generally advocate for smaller class sizes worry that the initiative would jeopardize other educational priorities. They’re either opposing I-1351 (the League of Education Voters) or staying neutral (Washington Association of School Administrators).

Supporters say I-1351 simply takes the staffing levels the state Legislature’s bipartisan advisory committee — the Quality Education Council (QEC) — has recommended and makes them law.

via I-1351: Proposal would cut class sizes, cost billions | Local News | The Seattle Times.

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