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State education groups challenge Eyman’s I-1053
Initiative 1053, a now 18-year-old law, is being challenged once more in Washington state courts by a coalition that includes the League of Education Voters (LEV) and the Washington Education Association (WEA).
Also known as the “Eyman initiative,” I-1053 requires a two-thirds vote of the state Legislature on any proposal to raise taxes. Introduced by conservative activist Tim Eyman, I-1053 has faced three challenges in Washington state courts during its lifetime — and has survived them all.
The current case being brought by the LEV and the WEA argues that I-1053 compromises the state Legislature’s “paramount duty” to provide adequate funding for education.
In recent years, education advocates from the state and Legislature have been able to get various education funding bills passed by a simple majority as required by the state constitution — but not by the two-thirds vote as imposed by I-1053.
Because of this, educators and their lawmaking supporters feel I-1053 is unconstitutional, relating it again to the “paramount duty” line described in Article IX of the state constitution.
Mary Lindquist, president of the WEA, feels this time around, the controversial initiative could be overturned.
“We can show that some real damages have happened in our classrooms because of the Eyman initiative,” she said. “A decade ago, the voters of this state passed an initiative to lower class size. 72 percent of voters (passed that initiative). The Eyman initiative makes it impossible to do that.”
Lindquist said that Washington has one of the highest average classroom sizes of any state, with only two other states exceeding Washington’s average.
“Every parent and every teacher knows our classrooms are crowded,” she said. “We’re participating in this lawsuit so our state has the means to provide its paramount duty.”
Federal Way Public Schools, one of the most historically underfunded districts in the state, would benefit from an overturning of I-1053, Lindquist said.
“Federal Way Public Schools, as much as any district in the state, has felt the effects of underfunding,” she said. “This gives us an opening to get funding back where they should be in Federal Way schools.”
Tim Eyman, a singular thorn in the side of the collective powers that be in Olympia, feels confident his initiative will remain on the books.
“Three times, and three unanimous rulings,” he said, referencing previous challenges to I-1053, along with the upper courts’ decisions on its legality and constitutionality. “The third (opinion) was from Mary Fairhurst, by far the most liberal member of the state Supreme Court. She wrote a scathing opinion.”
Eyman said Fairhurst’s explanation of the court’s decision on the last challenge to I-1053 was that the court believes in the separation of powers and doesn’t view its job as getting in the middle of a political tug of war. Because of this, Eyman feels this newest challenge to I-1053 will once again fall by the wayside. Even if the challenge is successful, the people will once again express their political will if needed.
“The court is saying we’re not going to save you from the voters,” Eyman said, referencing the 64 percent yes vote for I-1053 the last time it was on the ballot.
As the current battle ensues, Eyman feels this most recent attack by the state’s Democrat power base is foolhardy, at best.
“It’s amazingly arrogant and out of touch,” he said. “It’s political malpractice on their part.”