Unions ask City Attorney to Separate Pre-K Funding Measures

Both measures will make the ballot, but will they be in competition?

By Casey Jaywork July 10, 2014

Proponents of I-107, the SEIU 925-backed measure to boost training and pay for early education workers in Seattle, sent a letter today to city attorney Pete Holmes asking him to untangle it from another early education measure on the November ballot: the city's own pre-K funding measure. The letter, the proponents say, was signed by state house speaker Rep. Frank Chopp (D-43, Wallingford). We're still trying to confirm that. 

“The city is playing politics” by making voters choose between the two measures—I-107 spokeswoman Heather Weiner

The city council voted last month to pit their measure against I-107 on the November ballot, making voters formally choose between the two. The city's measure concentrates on expanding pre-K services to more students, while I-107 concentrates on improving the pay (to $15 an hour, starting this January) and training of teachers and staff. (Obviously, the two are connected: expanded service needs more teachers and staff, and better-treated teachers and staff will mean better expanded service.)

Council President Tim Burgess says that I-107 contradicts the city's measure, so it doesn't make sense to let voters choose both. As Erica reported last month, one of the main differences between the two measures is that the council's proposal, which has been championed by Burgess and Mayor Murray, includes funding: a property tax of $0.43 per $1000, which is expected to raise $14.5 million over four years. I-107, by contrast, does not specify where its funding would come from. It also expands union influence (and shrinks the city's influence) on training early education workers.

If Holmes does nothing, November's ballot will make voters choose between the city's pre-K measure and the unions' I-107. The ballot would look like this: One question will ask voters whether they think either of the proposals should move forward. If yes, then a second question will ask voters to choose just one of the proposals.

In addition being signed by SEIU 925 and their fellow education union AFT Seattle, some local political heavyweights have apparently singed on as well. Along with Rep. Chopp (a former Olympia nemesis of Murray), Reps. Zach Hudgins (D-11, Renton),  Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34, W. Seattle), and state Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-34, W. Seattle) reportedly signed the letter. Also on board in the effort to separate the two measures: immigrant rights group One America Votes and the Lefties over at Puget Sound Sage

Holmes’ spokesperson, Kimberly Mills, said she couldn’t confirm or deny whether Holmes office received the letter because of attorney/client confidentiality. We have calls out to House and Senate Democrats.

Heather Weiner, spokesperson for Yes for Early Success, the group pushing I-107, told PubliCola that “the city is playing politics” by making voters choose between the two measures---perhaps, she speculated, to keep control of early education consolidated in city officials’ hands. In her view, the two measures don't conflict and shouldn't compete; she told the Seattle Times that the city's pre-K plan is "also good for Seattle’s kids."

When we asked for comment, Burgess' office directed us to the Mayor's office; we have a call out. Update: Jeff Reading, Murray's communications director, said he couldn't tell us much because of the ethical imperative to keep public business separate from campaigning, but he did refer us to this video of Murray describing his views on the pre-K plan.


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