The following article was sent out in my City View Newsletter, which you can sign up to receive here.
Seattle voters had a clear choice on how to benefit the future generations of Seattle. I am very happy they selected the Seattle Preschool Program (Proposition 1B) crafted by Mayor Ed Murray, the City Council, early learning experts, and a wide variety of local stakeholders.
Yesterday’s vote means we will take a strong first step toward universal, voluntary, high-quality and affordable preschool for Seattle’s children. It is one of the best investments we can make.
The Seattle Preschool Program is based on extensive research on how to best prepare children for kindergarten and a life of learning. We reviewed the evidence of what works, we visited preschools throughout Seattle, we talked with teachers and parents, and we visited other cities to see how they provide universal preschool. At every step in development of the program, we were keenly committed to a critical principle: Quality.
Only quality benefits children for a lifetime. Only quality delivers an impressive return on investment for taxpayers. Only quality will enable our city to leverage dollars from the State and federal governments to provide even more preschool options for Seattle families.
This commitment to quality, based on the research and modeled after other successful cities, is embedded throughout the various elements of the Seattle Preschool Program:
- A menu of play-based, research-based curricula proven to support age-appropriate learning;
- Compensation that honors preschool teachers by being in line with the pay of K-12 teachers;
- Tuition support for teachers to acquire early learning credentials that improve not only the quality of learning for the children but also career pathways for the teachers;
- Support for teachers including ongoing in-classroom coaching;
- Full day preschool (6 hours per day, 5 days a week) and wrap-around care;
- Classrooms with a teacher-to-child ratio of 1:10;
- Providers earning a good score from Washington’s “Early Achievers” quality rating and improvement system developed by the University of Washington;
- Program evaluations and feedback from kindergarten teachers to maintain high quality; and
- A sliding scale of tuition for parents to encourage economically mixed and culturally diverse classrooms which are best for all children.
Committing ourselves to quality not only promotes social justice for early learning, it delivers it. Only by doing what actually works can we close the achievement and opportunity gaps that have persistently and unfairly impacted our children of color.
As a voluntary program for both parents and providers, the Seattle Preschool Program does not divert funding away from existing programs for childcare or preschool. Nor does it require any space from the Seattle School District. The Seattle Preschool Program is an added investment that will benefit more children — up to 2,000 per year by the fourth year.
To maintain quality, we carefully ramp up the enrollment over time. Boston and other jurisdictions that have succeeded in providing quality, universal preschool advised us strongly to go slow to get it right. By Year 4, the program will be providing quality preschool to about 25% of the three- and four–year-olds likely to enroll. This is a bold step for Seattle and I hope other local cities and counties will soon follow.
There will be bumps in the road, but with a carefully crafted program committed to quality and with dedicated funds to do it right, we are on the path to transform lives.
Thanks to the voters, the Seattle Preschool Program will empower children throughout their lives with better education, better health, and better earning potential. It will reduce disparities in our community.
Put simply, the Seattle Preschool Program will provide our children with a strong and fair start.
My colleagues and I are deeply grateful that Seattle voters approved this program and have agreed to invest early in our children.