A King County Superior Court judge ruled against the labor-backed group Yes for Early Success in a ruling related to preschool funding today. The result is that only one of two competing preschool-related measures on the ballot can win in November.
Yes for Early Success, funded by the Services Employees International Union 925 and by the Washington chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, has a measure on this November's city ballot, I-107, that would raise preschool teachers' salaries to $15 an hour starting in 2015 (preempting the phased-in $15 minimum wage law the city passed earlier this year) and set up training guidelines. The measure does not come with funding.
The unions want the public to vote yes or no on the measure in its own right. Meanwhile, Mayor Ed Murray and the city council have a preschool measure of their own—one that raises property taxes to pay for lower-income kids to get slots in pre-K programs. The council put both measures on the ballot, but designed the ballot so that the measures are pitted against each other; voters have to pick which one they want, with only one winning. (Voters can also say they don't like either measure with a blanket 'No' vote.)
After Yes for Early Success failed to get the city attorney to change the ballot so that people could vote on the two measures separately, the group asked King County Superior Court to separate the measures.
But this afternoon KC Superior Court Judge Helen Halpert ruled against them, keeping the measures in a standoff. Her reasoning: the measures dealt with the same subject and state law mandates that when city charter initiatives to the council dealing with the same subject are on the same ballot, they have to face off.
(The reason the competing statewide gun control measures—which would impose background checks for private sales and codify no background checks for private sales, respectively—aren't also compelled to compete, but are being voted on separately, is because they are initiatives to the people. The council then pro-actively rejected by proposing its own alternative, putting the initiative under a different set of rules than initiatives from the people like the gun measures.)
"We are considering whether to appeal today's decision allowing City Hall to deny voters their constitutional rights to a clean and fair vote on both I-107, the citizen initiative to improve child care throughout Seattle, and the City Council's preschool tax levy," Yes for Early Success spokeswoman Heather Weiner said.
Sandeep Kaushik, the spokesman for the city's preschool measure, said: "Faced with two incompatible preschool plans, they will now have the opportunity to determine which of these plans they prefer."