McCleary, I-1351, and budgeting choices

Budgeting is fundamentally about choices. The McCleary decision and the prospect of I-1351 are making this plainly evident to many.

Last week the League of Education Voters decided to oppose I-1351. Even though they supported a previous class size reduction initiative (I-728), LEV said,

We know there is no single silver bullet that will close the opportunity and achievement gaps for Washington students. We believe I-1351 will preclude our ability to make investments in other proven strategies, such as early learning and college readiness.

Additionally, Erica Barnett of PubliCola writes that she doesn’t like

the fact that the need to fully fund K-12 education—the state supreme court recently held the legislature in contempt for failing to meet the McCleary mandate and adequately fund the public schools—is taking up all the legislature’s oxygen this year, leaving little breathing room for other pressing issues.

The McCleary mandate means that the legislature will likely go another year without passing a statewide transportation package—a desperately needed measure that has been tabled for the last two regular sessions—not to mention mental health services, higher education, and local transit service.

There are any number of good programs the state could fund in the budget. McCleary and, if approved by voters, I-1351 mandate spending on specific programs that would preclude many other priorities. Below, again, is a chart showing McCleary and I-1351 spending in the context of other spending needs and wants. (And here’s our policy brief on I-1351.)

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