WEA to profit from passage of class-size initiative

August 15, 2014

An informative Spokesman-Review editorial today, citing figures from the state Office of Financial Management, notes that I-1351, the upcoming class-size initiative, would cost $4.7 billion through 2019, plus another $1.9 billion required from local school budgets. I-1351 includes no funding mechanism, so all this money would be taken from existing education programs, at a time when lawmakers are trying to comply with the McCleary decision on funding public education.

OFM estimates the measure would require 17,081 new hires. Less than half of these positions, 7,453, would be teachers. Washington is not a right-to-work state, so public school teachers and most other staff must join the Washington Education Association union or face termination.

Each new union-covered position would net the WEA about $1,000 a year. If all new hires had to join, I-1351 would give union executives a windfall of $17 million a year. Counting only teacher hires, WEA executives would make almost $7.5 million annually. WEA revenue now is about $33 million a year, much of it spent on political campaigns.

The numbers explain why union executives have set passage of I-1351 as their top political goal for 2014.

As people weigh the impact I-1351 would have on local school budgets, it’s important to bear in mind is that one reason WEA executives are pushing the measure so hard is it would transfer a significant amount of money into union bank accounts.