Initiative wants smaller classes, more school hiring

by: Kevin McCarty Updated:

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OLYMPIA, Wash. —

A parade of children carried boxes of petitions into the Secretary of State’s Office in Olympia Wednesday as backers of Initiative 1351 applied for a spot on the Nov. 4 ballot.

If approved by voters I-1351 would mandate smaller class sizes along with the hiring of additional school counselors, librarians, nurses, teaching assistants and support staff.

“All kids deserve a quality education in a classroom where a teacher can spend time working with every child,” said I-1351 author Mary Howes.

Supporters say I-1351 would reduce class sizes in high poverty kindergarten classrooms from an average of nearly 21 students to 15 and from than 25.3 to 17 students in non-poverty schools. Class sizes would also be reduced in elementary middle and high schools from averages around 29 kids per class to around 23 students.

Science teacher Desi Saylors joined the petition handover, saying her classrooms were simply too crowded.

“By cramming so many kids into these classrooms we’re really robbing our children of a quality learning experience,” said Saylors.

I-1351 does not include any provision to fund the smaller class sizes and hiring of more staff. Instead Howes said she is leaving it up to the state legislature to find the money if voters approve the initiative.

“It phases in over four years which gives the state plenty of time to figure out how to pay for this,” said Howes.

Signatures on the I-1351 petitions must first be verified by the Secretary of State’s Office before the initiative is included on the ballot.