Full ballot of initiatives makes filing deadline - I-884
education measure in; Eyman-sponsored I-864 out
During the next month, the Secretary of State's Office will verify names on the following initiatives. Each proposal will require 198,000 valid names to appear on the Nov. 2 ballot.
- Initiative 872: If approved, this proposal creates a Top Two or Louisiana-style primary election system. The campaign was organized by the Washington State Grange.
- Initiative 892: If approved, this initiative would allow non-tribal venues -- including card rooms, bars, taverns, bowling alleys and restrooms, to add electronic slot machines. Supporters say that a 39 percent sales tax on earnings from 19,000 extra slot machines in Washington could generate $400 million for the state government. The initiative was sponsored by Tim Eyman.
- Initiative 297: If approved, this measure would address rules for "mixed waste materials" at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. It was originally submitted to the Legislature during the last session and has already been certified by Secretary of State Sam Reed as having enough signatures to qualify for the Nov. 2 ballot.
- Referendum 55: If approved, this measure would repeal House Bill 2295, signed into law earlier this year, which creates a charter schools program in the state.
The law, currently on hold, would allow 45 charter schools to operate under contracts that free them from many of the rules required of other public schools.
This campaign was led by Protect Our Public Schools, and backed by the Washington Education Association.
Reed's office has already verified enough names for it to qualify on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Arriving in a chartered yellow school bus, organizers of Initiative 884, which would increase the state's sales tax by 1 cent to establish an "education trust fund," delivered 327,566 signatures to the Secretary of State's Office on Friday.
Supporters think the high number of signatures essentially guarantees a spot on the Nov. 2 ballot. If approved by voters, the measure would raise $1 billion for education by increasing the state sales tax by a penny per dollar.
The event -- which featured a handful of school children, some parents and Gov. Gary Locke unloading about 40 boxes of signatures -- was delayed for a few minutes while tax insurgent Tim Eyman exited the Secretary of State's Office with stacks of signatures that were collected for Initiative 864.
Eyman's campaign had collected only 156,000 signatures for the measure, which would have cut local-government property taxes by 25 percent, saving taxpayers more than $500 million a year.
Initiatives need at least 198,000 valid names to qualify for a ballot.
Eyman said he plans to be back in January with a similar property-tax initiative, probably more stringent than the failed one. He said he's not discouraged.
"You only lose if you quit, and we ain't quitting," he told reporters. "We're coming right back."
Meantime, a group that called itself "Breathe Easy Washington" canceled its appointment to turn in signatures on Friday, which was the deadline to submit signatures for the Nov. 2 ballot.
The group had been collecting signatures for I-890, a measure that would have banned smoking in all public places, including bars and taverns.
With the submission of nearly 120,000 more signatures than required, Lisa Macfarlane, president of the Seattle-based League of Education Voters and sponsor of I-884, thinks the measure is guaranteed a spot on the November ballot.
"We're here today to celebrate a huge victory for the children of Washington state," she said during an 11:30 a.m. news conference, which also featured Locke and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson.
"These signatures represent the hopes and the dreams of every student, every parent, every grandparent in the state," Macfarlane added.
According to the League of Education Voters, the new tax money that's raised from I-884 would go toward:
- Providing preschool programs for 16,000 children who are in economic need.
- Reducing class sizes.
- Funding teacher cost-of-living pay increases and training opportunities.
-Expanding the state's Promise Scholarship program to provide community college scholarships to the top 30 percent of high school graduates.
- Creating 30,000 more enrollment slots at the state's community, technical and four-year colleges and universities.
Macfarlane said money that's earmarked for students in kindergarten through grade 12 would be distributed to school districts individually. Each local district would be able to decide how the money would be spent.
"People aren't getting blank checks," she said. "But they get to make some decisions, based on the needs in their district."
Locke's office drafted an earlier version of the measure, which was unveiled during the legislative session in February. When lawmakers tossed it back, supporters hit the streets to get it placed on the ballot.
Dozens of organizations, school boards and community groups have put their weight behind the initiative, including the Washington State PTA, the Washington Education Association teachers' union and the Washington State Labor Council.
Earlier this week, two organizations -- the Evergreen Freedom Foundation and the Washington Policy Center -- released studies on the measure.
The Washington Policy Center said I-884 will result in positive and negative outcomes.
According to the conservative group, lower income people would pay an additional 0.8 percent of their income in taxes, while people at the highest income levels would pay 0.3 percent more.
The initiative could also result in 10,000 fewer jobs in the state, mostly felt in the retail sector.
"There's no question that if Initiative 884 passes it will have both positive and negative long-term effects on our education system and our state's economy," said Washington Policy Center Vice President for Research Paul Guppy. "Voters will have to carefully weigh the new source of education funding of this proposal compared to the overall cost to jobs and the economy."
Marsha Richards, director of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation's Education Reform Center, thinks that I-884 will "make the current bureaucracy a billion dollars bigger."
"The issue isn't money," she said. "It's that we have a broken delivery system."
Richards said the state should try to fix its education system before more money is added to it.
Bergeson, the state's top education official, said she supports the plan because it will help students meet new state and federal education requirements.
She also likes the plan because it connects early childhood learning, K-12 education and higher education.
"I don't want to see money go into three separate systems," Bergeson said.
Lydia Depillis, 17, a senior at Garfield High School in Seattle, helped deliver the boxes of signatures at the event. She said she began volunteering with the campaign because she thinks something needs to be changed in the education system.
Depillis said she's especially interested in lowering class sizes. She said some of her classes have 40 students to one teacher.
"At Garfield, you can see the impact of the inadequate state funding," she added.
Locke said the initiative will better prepare disadvantaged students for kindergarten by providing money for more preschool programs, such as Head Start.
"We don't want any child to be left behind when they start school," he said.
And once children are in school, they'll be given a promise that if they do well academically they can earn a scholarship that's worth two years of community college tuition, Locke said.
Information from the Associated Press is included in this report.
Lisa Pemberton covers education for The Olympian. She can be reached at 360-754-5445 or email@example.com.
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