Class size Initiative 1351: Threat to safety net and higher education, yet no organized opposition

Seattle Times columnist and editorial board member Erik Smith writes that despite its $4.7 billion price tag with no funding attached, Initiative 1351 seems to be sliding to the November ballot with no significant opposition. This is all the more surprising because, as Smith points out, when informed arguments are presented, even those most predisposed to support the measure change their minds. He cites state Sen. Jamie Pedersen’s experience at a meeting of the 43rd District Democrats in Seattle.

“It probably wasn’t politically smart to speak out against it, but I felt I had to say something,” he explains.

He talked about the programs that would have to be cut to pay for the measure, and the lack of evidence that 1351 would do any good.  By the time he got done, he not only had defeated the endorsement, he convinced most of the room the initiative is a multi-billion-dollar menace. Some 57 percent of the Democrats who were there voted to oppose it; two more votes and the 43rd-district Dems would have gone on record against it.

Although the Association of Washington Business voted to oppose the measure, no significant campaign against it has emerged.

The editorial pages get it, as shown by this strong editorial in The News Tribune.

If initiatives could be charged with crimes, I-1351 – the class size measure on November’s ballot – would be convicted of malicious mischief.

Innocuous as it sounds, it is a grave threat to Washington’s safety net – to funding for foster children, early learning, homeless families, foster children and the mentally ill. If approved, it could also push the Legislature to further cannibalize the state’s higher education system.

Read the whole thing. The math is compelling. We wrote about the measure last month, calling it a $4.7 billion unfunded mandate with dubious educational merit. I also wrote a pair of columns on 1351, here and here.

As the governor said of 1351 at the AWB Policy Summit, “it’s difficult to see how it can be financed in the first biennium.” (h/t Jason Mercier for the video link)

That’s an understatement. It would be good to see more people talking about this. As Sen. Pedersen said, it may not be politically smart, but it’s a discussion worth having.

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