More on union-backed class size reduction initiative – costly and unfunded

In my column today, I write about I-1351, the class size reduction initiative endorsed and promoted by the Washington Education Association. We first wrote about it here. I note that the initiative bears some resemblance to Initiative 728, passed by the voters in 2000 as an unfunded mandate.

Like I-728, I-1351 doesn’t raise taxes. It imposes costs and leaves it to the Legislature to find the money. The initiative mirrors bills introduced in the Legislature this year. Analysts estimated that, when fully implemented, the measure would cost $3.4 billion a biennium with an even greater unfunded burden laid on local school districts.

Finding that kind of money isn’t easy. Generating the cash for the state share by raising the sales tax, for example, would cause the state rate to climb from 6.5 percent to nearly 8 percent. For proponents’ campaign purposes, it’s important not to talk about that.

Sponsors want to piggyback on the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.

Hoping to gain constitutional protection for its staffing requirements, initiative backers specified that the provisions are “to be considered basic education funding … in accordance with the McCleary decision.”

A good editorial in the Seattle Times also addresses the initiative.