With all but four Eastern Washington counties reporting in first-day returns, Washington voters were narrowly rejecting an initiative that would require the state Legislature to find nearly $5 billion though 2019 to pay for lower class sizes and hire more of everyone else needed to operate a school, from principals to groundskeepers.
The I-1351 campaign, backed primarily by the state teachers union, focused on the part of the initiative aimed at lowering class-size averages for kindergarten through 12th grade.
That’s a popular message with parents and politicians — at least 40 states have carried out some kind of class-size reduction in the past 15 years — and Washington has some of the most packed classrooms in the country.
But I-1351, which does not specify a funding source, proposes much more than hiring teachers.
The state Office of Financial Management (OFM) estimated that of the roughly 25,000 new jobs it would create over four years, only about 7,400 would go to classroom teachers.
The other 18,000 or so would go to principals, school nurses, guidance counselors, librarians, janitors, and a host of other school staff.
Filling all those jobs would cost the state almost $5 billion through 2019, and then nearly $2 billion a year after that, according to OFM’s analysis.
It now will be up to the Legislature to find the money.
Tonight’s vote count can be viewed here.