Seattle Preschool Program

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Mayor Murray in preschoolThe following article was sent out in my City View Newsletter, which you can sign up to receive here.

Today Mayor Ed Murray and I announced a detailed action plan for high-quality, affordable preschool for Seattle’s three and four year olds.

Every child deserves a strong and fair start. Regardless of their race, background, family income, or neighborhood – ALL of our children deserve to be prepared to succeed in school and in life.

With this proposal, Mayor Murray is demonstrating critical leadership on behalf of Seattle’s children. The plan honors and sharpens the vision expressed by the City Council last fall when we called for a bold program to boost vital learning opportunities for our city’s preschoolers.

Over the past year-and-a-half, we have consulted with the country’s leading educators and researchers, we have visited cities across the country, we have visited nearly 20 preschools throughout Seattle, we have worked with the School District and our local universities, and we have listened to dedicated teachers and caring parents. They all want what is best for our kids.

All of this work leads to one conclusion: it’s time for voluntary, affordable high-quality preschool in Seattle. Preschool is proven to prepare our children for success in school and in life.

Several long-term evaluations have demonstrated that high-quality preschool leads not only to better academic achievement, but also to better health, higher-paying jobs, and lower rates of criminal behavior.  The most recent independent studies have confirmed these tangible academic and social benefits on a large scale in Boston and Tulsa and the states of New Jersey and Georgia.

For our children, our parents, and our taxpayers, we are committed to a preschool program that is evidence-based and high quality. High quality means full-day preschool. High quality means a teaching staff that is highly paid, trained, and supported. It means a menu of curricula that is play-based and proven to work. And high quality means economically and culturally diverse children playing and learning together.

The thoughtful approach and timeline the Mayor has endorsed is right for Seattle. It’s consistent with the academic evidence. It’s the best investment we could possibly make on behalf of our children.

If approved by voters, the Seattle Preschool Program will start in September 2015 and, by the end of its 4th year, serve 2,000 children in 100 preschool classrooms throughout our city. It will be free for those earning less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level ($47,700 for a family of four) and have a sliding scale of fees for those families earning more, with some level of subsidy for all families.

To fund the Seattle Preschool Program, we will ask Seattle voters to invest $14.5 million per year in new property taxes.  We know this will be an important decision for voters, which is why we did our research and crafted a high-quality program that grows at a sensible pace and will produce results for children and the city. 

With reduced costs for special education and the juvenile justice system and other benefits for the children and the city, every $1 invested in high-quality preschool could produce a return-on-investment of $5.

If Tulsa can do it, then so can Seattle. If Georgia can do it, then so can Seattle. If New Jersey can do it, then so can Seattle. What are we waiting for? Thanks to the leadership of Mayor Murray and the Council and the hard work of City staff, we no longer need to wait.

And, for Seattle families with infants or newborns on the way, we cannot afford to wait.

The Mayor’s team will present the plan in greater detail at our Council Committee on Preschool this Friday at 12:00 p.m. in City Council Chambers.

For more information on the Seattle Preschool Program and for our full Committee schedule in May and June, visit our Council website.