Politics & Government

Initiative 1351’s class size mandate moves on top, just outside recount range

A ballot measure to improve teacher-student ratios in public schools is now winning by 11,373 votes, beyond the reach of a mandatory recount.

After new vote tallies on Friday, Initiative 1351 was passing with 50.3 percent of the 1,793,819 ballots counted from the Nov. 4 election. Additional ballots are scheduled for counting Saturday afternoon in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties where the measure is passing.

I-1351 requires lower class sizes in all grades, shrinking those in grades K-3 to 17 students per teacher; requirements are even lower for those in high-poverty communities. The measure would force the state to spend potentially $2 billion more on K-12 education in the next biennium, according to the state Office of Financial Management.

“There are legitimate concerns about (our) ability to finance this,’’ Inslee told a TVW interviewer on election night, explaining why he voted against the measure.

The Legislature already is under a contempt order from the state Supreme Court to dramatically improve state funding of basic education, and Inslee’s budget experts say the state already faces a shortfall of between $1 billion and $3 billion in the next biennium. That’s before factoring in I-1351, which does not provide a new source of revenue.

The Washington Education Association sponsored and backed the Yes on 1351 campaign after years of unsuccessful efforts to get lawmakers to find funds to improve class sizes. WEA contributed more than $2.4 million in cash and additional in-kind support, and the National Education Association provided $1.83 million cash and additional in-kind help.

An automatic recount of ballots would be carried out statewide by machine if the vote margin falls less than 2,000 and is 0.5 percent of the total cast, according to the Office of the Secretary of State. A statewide hand recount would automatically occur if the margin is 1,000 votes or less and also no more than a quarter percent of total ballots cast.