2 Democratic legislators have opposing views on class-size initiative

Democratic 1st Legislative District State Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe and Democratic 21st District State Rep. Mary Helen Roberts have opposing views on Initiative 1351,which would require the Legislature to pay to reduce class sizes throughout the public-school system.

McAuliffe, who is in the middle of a four-year Senate term, says that she supports the measure because a positive vote would show the legislature that reducing class size is important to voters. The ranking Democrat on the Senate committee on education, she represents most of Mountlake Terrace, all of Brier and Bothell and the rest of the 1st Legislative District.

Roberts, who is retiring after five two-year terms in the House, says that she opposes the measure because it has no way to pay for the required extra teachers and class space and because of a lack of evidence that class-size reduction helps learning. Roberts, a longtime member of the House committee on early learning and human services, represents most of Edmonds, all of Mukilteo and the rest of the 21st Legislative District.

Here’s what McAuliffe said in support of I-1351:

“I believe legislators need to hear from the people regarding class size. The voice of the people will be very important when decisions are made regarding the investment of dollars into basic education. While some people may say that reduction in class size is not laid out in the McCleary decision (requiring he Legislature to provide full state support for basic public education) and will not satisfy the court, the initiative reflects the class-size reduction recommended by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Quality Educational Council. There is nothing more basic then a class size where students can receive the personalized instructional time they need to learn.”

Here’s what Roberts said in opposition to the initiative:

“While I think small class size is important for the lower grades, there is little evidence that the breadth of the requirement in the initiative is proven or necessary.

“The key question is how can we afford it? If we implement the education reform act and comply with the McCleary decision, we will accomplish a great deal. However, from my perspective, even doing that will require new revenue unless we shred the social services safety net. Revenue growth through a healthier economy is insufficient to meet our obligation to adequately fund basic education and provide much needed services for children, the disabled and the elderly.

“The Children’s Alliance, which strongly advocates for children, has voted to also oppose I-1351.”

Evan Smith can be reached at schsmith@frontier.com.

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