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Monday, September 27, 2004 - Page updated at 11:39 A.M.

The Times endorses
Vote yes on I-884, education trust fund

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Voters should approve Initiative 884, the education trust fund, and provide schools, colleges and universities with a much-needed infusion of resources.

The measure raises the state sales tax by 1 penny , from 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent, leading critics to call it regressive. But what it actually does is ask everyone to invest in community education and statewide schools.

From preschool to higher education, the system is buckling under the weight of unfunded mandates. Education reform has raised the stakes but the accompanying funding has yet to materialize.

Enter a solution: a dedicated revenue stream for education. The trust fund would pay for 25,000 slots at community colleges and four-year institutions. They are sorely needed. In 2008, the public schools will graduate the largest class ever. Those students ought to be able to attend college here rather than leave the state because of enrollment restrictions.

Last year, the University of Washington and Washington State University put lawmakers on notice that they could no longer enroll students not funded by the state. The better solution is I-884, which would provide funding for nearly 5,000 more students.

There would be funding for additional slots in high-demand fields. Nursing, for example, would receive about 7,000 new slots.

The trust fund also provides full funding for Initiative 728, the measure passed by voters to pay for class-size reduction, teacher training and extended learning opportunities. Additional money would target schools and districts serving poor children and those for whom English is a second language.

Ditto for Initiative 732, which voters approved to pay for teacher pay raises. An additional amount would forgive teacher loans to encourage certification in high-need areas.

State lawmakers have failed time and again to develop long-term strategies for funding education. The dilemma has reached a crisis. Voters have articulated their education priorities by approving initiatives 728 and 732. This page opposed both because they did not come with funding attached. This initiative does.

Citizens should vote yes on I-884. The measure prepares children for school, gives K-12 schools more resources and helps ensure a place for students at college when they graduate.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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