Initiative 1351 Could Reduce Washington Class Sizes and Require 15,000 New Teachers

The Washington Supreme Court ruled the state wasn't meeting its constitutional obligation to fully fund basic education in the 2012 case McCleary v. State of Washington.  The legislature was instructed to provide billions of dollars of additional funding by the 2017/18 school year.  Estimates show the cost to the state is approximately $3.4 billion with an even higher cost to local school districts.  On the November statewide ballot the citizens will decide one piece of the puzzle by determining if class sizes should be reduced prompting a need to hire an additional 15,000 teachers.

According to the Washington House of Representatives' summary the Washington Class Size Reduction Measure Initiative 1351

  • Reduces class size values and increases staffing allocations in the statutory prototypical school funding formula, effective September 1, 2018;
  • Requires funding allocated in the 2015-2017 biennium to be no less than 50 percent of the difference between funding as of September 1, 2013, and the funding necessary to support the new statutory class size and staffing allocations;
  • Requires full funding of the new statutory class size and staffing allocations by the end of the 2017-2019 biennium;
  • Limits state funding for the new prototypical class sizes to funding that is proportionate to a school district's demonstrated actual average class size; and
  • Permits school districts that demonstrate capital facility needs that prevent class size reductions to use class size reduction funding for school-based personnel who provided direct services to students.

If the initiative passes fewer students will be in each classroom in grades K-12.  In classrooms kingergarten through third grade there would be no more than 15-17 students.  For grades 4 through 12 no more than 22-25 students would be in each classroom.  With these reductions it's estimated that an additional 15,000 new teachers would be required. 

Once the results are tabulated, if the initiative passes the measure would be phased in over the course of four years. The changes would be applied first at high poverty schools, defined as schools with 50 percent of students receiving free or reduced cost lunches.

According to the Public Disclosure Commission the support campaign, Class Size Counts, had raised a total of $4,424,650 as of October 27, 2014. The majority of the money has been raised from the Washington Education Association, a union group, and its affiliate, the National Education Association.