During election season, the Children’s Alliance analyzes statewide ballot measures. Whether we support, oppose, or don’t get involved is based on the answer to one fundamental question: Is it good for kids and for racial equity?
Today, we announce our opposition to Initiative 1351 concerning K-12 education.
Our opposition to Initiative 1351 is rooted in our mission and responsibility to advocate for ALL of Washington’s children. When it comes to the current state of K-12 education, we see two main barriers to the success of all of Washington’s kids: (1) the opportunity gap facing children in low-income families and children of color, and (2) inadequate state funding, caused by the lack of legislative support for raising the revenue that our state needs.
The intent of Initiative 1351 is to reduce K-12 class sizes. Initiative 1351 was not designed with remedying the opportunity gap as a major focus. While the Initiative places much-needed teachers and staff in schools, it would do little to remedy Washington’s opportunity gap, which is among the worst in the nation.
Whether measured by kindergarten readiness, reading proficiency, math skills, or high school graduation, students in low-income families and particularly students of color are not well served by our current education system. By 2018, children of color will be the majority of children in our state. We cannot afford to leave any student behind.
Initiative 1351 does not focus resources on supports for kids with the greatest needs.
The lack of any revenue increase to implement the policy changes from Initiative 1351 is our second concern. We support increased state revenue and tax reform. Our upcoming legislative priorities will continue to ask legislators to vote for revenue.
The cost of implementing Initiative 1351 would add to the next two-year budget deficit, driving the gap to $4.4 billion, according to the Washington State Budget & Policy Center.
Even with badly needed (and long overdue) revenue increases, the magnitude of the spending required by Initiative 1351 ($4.7 billion over five years) could result in deep and devastating budget cuts. After years of cuts that have disproportionately hurt kids in low-income families and communities of color, we cannot take the chance on a policy that might lead to more hardship for families that are already struggling.
We are concerned about the unintended consequences of a change in law that results in a deficit of this magnitude. If Initiative 1351 is adopted and implemented, all other needs of children (including basic needs, such as housing for 30,000 homeless school kids, food assistance, health care, and early learning) would move to the back of the line for limited state funds. Research has shown that the promise of education cannot be realized if kids arrive at the school door hungry, in ill health, or without the security of a home.
As we stated in our recent amicus curiae brief to the State Supreme Court in the McCleary education funding case, we support full funding for basic education; and we recognize that if we cut social programs to pay for education, everyone will be worse off. In addressing our failure to uphold kids’ right to a basic education, we don’t want the solution to exacerbate the problem.
Kids are counting on us to move forward. We cannot afford any other path.
Vote NO on Initiative 1351.