Purpose—Intent—2001 c 3 (Initiative Measure No. 728): "The citizens of Washington state expect and deserve great public schools for our generation of school children and for those who will follow. A quality public education system is crucial for our state's future economic success and prosperity, and for our children and their children to lead successful lives.
The purpose of this act is to improve public education and to achieve higher academic standards for all students through smaller class sizes and other improvements. A portion of the state's surplus general fund revenues is dedicated to this purpose.
In 1993, Washington state made a major commitment to improved public education by passing the Washington education reform act. This act established new, higher standards of academic achievement for all students. It also established new levels of accountability for students, teachers, schools, and school districts. However, the K-12 finance system has not been changed to respond to the new standards and individual student needs.
To make higher student achievement a reality, schools need the additional resources and flexibility to provide all students with more individualized quality instruction, more time, and the extra support that they may require. We need to ensure that curriculum, instruction methods, and assessments of student performance are aligned with the new standards and student needs. The current level of state funding does not provide adequate resources to support higher academic achievement for all students. In fact, inflation-adjusted per-student state funding has declined since the legislature adopted the 1993 education reform act.
The erosion of state funding for K-12 education is directly at odds with the state's "paramount duty to make ample provision for the education of all children...." Now is the time to invest some of our surplus state revenues in K-12 education and redirect state lottery funds to education, as was originally intended, so that we can fulfill the state's paramount duty.
Conditions and needs vary across Washington's two hundred ninety-six school districts. School boards accountable to their local communities should therefore have the flexibility to decide which of the following strategies will be most effective in increasing student performance and in helping students meet the state's new, higher academic standards:
(1) Major reductions in K-4 class size;
(2) Selected class size reductions in grades 5-12, such as small high school writing classes;
(3) Extended learning opportunities for students who need or want additional time in school;
(4) Investments in educators and their professional development;
(5) Early assistance for children who need prekindergarten support in order to be successful in school; and
(6) Providing improvements or additions to facilities to support class size reductions and extended learning opportunities.
REDUCING CLASS SIZE
Smaller classes in the early grades can significantly increase the amount of learning that takes place in the classroom. Washington state now ranks forty-eighth in the nation in its student-teacher ratio. This is unacceptable.
Significant class size reductions will provide our children with more individualized instruction and the attention they need and deserve and will reduce behavioral problems in classrooms. The state's long-term goal should be to reduce class size in grades K-4 to no more than eighteen students per teacher in a class.
The people recognize that class size reduction should be phased-in over several years. It should be accompanied by the necessary funds for school construction and modernization and for high-quality, well-trained teachers.
EXTENDED LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES
Student achievement will also be increased if we expand learning opportunities beyond our traditional-length school day and year. In many school districts, educators and parents want a longer school day, a longer school year, and/or all-day kindergarten to help students improve their academic performance or explore new learning opportunities. In addition, special programs such as before-and-after-school tutoring will help struggling students catch and keep up with their classmates. Extended learning opportunities will be increasingly important as attainment of a certificate of mastery becomes a high school graduation requirement.
Key to every student's academic success is a quality teacher in every classroom. Washington state's new standards for student achievement make teacher quality more important than ever. We are asking our teachers to teach more demanding curriculum in new ways, and we are holding our educators and schools to new, higher levels of accountability for student performance. Resources are needed to give teachers the content knowledge and skills to teach to higher standards and to give school leaders the skills to improve instruction and manage organizational change.
The ability of school districts throughout the state to attract and retain the highest quality teaching corps by offering competitive salaries and effective working conditions is an essential element of basic education. The state legislature is responsible for establishing teacher salaries. It is imperative that the legislature fund salary levels that ensure school districts' ability to recruit and retain the highest quality teachers.
The importance of a child's intellectual development in the first five years has been established by widespread scientific research. This is especially true for children with disabilities and special needs. Providing assistance appropriate to children's developmental needs will enhance the academic achievement of these children in grades K-12. Early assistance will also lessen the need for more expensive remedial efforts in later years.
NO SUPPLANTING OF EXISTING EDUCATION FUNDS
It is the intent of the people that existing state funding for education, including all sources of such funding, shall not be reduced, supplanted, or otherwise adversely impacted by appropriations or expenditures from the *student achievement fund created in RCW 43.135.045
or the education construction fund.
INVESTING SURPLUS IN SCHOOLS UNTIL GOAL MET
It is the intent of the people to invest a portion of state surplus revenues in their schools. This investment should continue until the state's contribution to funding public education achieves a reasonable goal. The goal should reflect the state's paramount duty to make ample provision for the education of all children and our citizens' desire that all students receive a quality education. The people set a goal of per-student state funding for the maintenance and operation of K-12 education being equal to at least ninety percent of the national average per-student expenditure from all sources. When this goal is met, further deposits to the *student achievement fund shall be required only to the extent necessary to maintain the ninety-percent level." [2001 c 3 § 2 (Initiative Measure No. 728, approved November 7, 2000).]