More analysis of how the I-1351 class-size initiative increases the stress on the state budget


We wrote yesterday about the nearly  $2 billion shortfall projected for the governor’s budget in 2021. While there are plenty of factors to consider, the reinstatement of the class size reductions required by I-1351 plays a key role. 

The Washington Research Council provides additional analysis. Of I-1351 the WRC writes that the initiative, which was deferred by lawmakers in 2015, is scheduled to kick in for the 2019-2021 biennium.

In the first year of full implementation, I-1351 requires 7,453 new teachers (on top of the 7,396 teachers already required by McCleary for K–3) and 18,108 new school and district staff. As originally approved, 50 percent of the allocation increases were to be funded in 2015–17 and all allocations were to be funded in 2017–19…

The initiative is costly…As shown in the new budget outlook, given the change in implementation date, it is now estimated that I-1351 will cost $1.866 billion in 2019–21 (when only 50 percent of the allocations must be funded). In addition to that, Gov. Inslee’s proposal would add I-1351 spending of $330 million in 2017–19 and $631 million in 2019–21.

And for those concerned that the state Supreme Court might roll I-1351 into its McCleary calculations, WRC analyst Emily Makings adds:

Indeed, the Supreme Court does not expect class sizes in grades 4–12 to be reduced as part of the McCleary decision—see here and here. 

Makings also reports on the budget outlook for the governor’s budget proposal adopted by the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council.

According to the outlook, his proposal would leave a near general fund–state plus opportunity pathways (NGFS+) unrestricted ending balance in 2019–21 of negative $2.041 billion (and total reserves would be negative $596 million). Meanwhile, the revenue legislation proposed by the governor would increase from $4.352 billion in 2017–19 to $7.013 billion in 2019–21.

At the maintenance level, K–12 spending increases would go from $802 million in 2017–19 to $1.434 billion in 2019–21 (including K–3 class size reductions to be implemented pursuant to the McCleary decision) and spending increases for the I-732 COLAs for teachers would go from $406 million to $1.051 billion. Also, I-1351 (K–12 class size reduction) is scheduled to become effective in 2019–21, increasing spending in that biennium by $1.866 billion. 

Even with a strong economy and robust revenue growth, meeting the budget challenge will take some sharp pencils and tough decisions.