City Council to Vote on 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.

It’s not very often that local elected officials get to advance public policy with the potential to change our society so fundamentally…let alone twice inside 30 days.

On June 2nd the City Council voted unanimously to adopt Mayor Murray’s minimum wage legislation to reverse years and years of stagnant wages. That was a historic milestone designed to help workers at the bottom of the economic ladder.

This afternoon, just three weeks later, we are about to make another monumental decision that has the potential to reverse decades of lost academic opportunities. We will vote this afternoon to send the Seattle Preschool Program to voters in November.

The plan the City Council will vote on today is based on what works. It was developed through a strong partnership with Mayor Murray. We have followed the evidence and, if we implement it right, we will achieve the same results being celebrated in Boston, Jersey City, Tulsa, Denver, and elsewhere.

If done right, the benefits are very clear. Children enrolled in high-quality preschool outperform their peers in other types of preschool: they enter kindergarten ready to learn; they are much more likely to be reading at grade level in the third grade; they have higher high school graduation rates, lower teen pregnancies, higher college entrance and graduation rates, higher earning power as adults, lower levels of criminal behavior, and better health. Who wouldn’t want these positive outcomes for Seattle’s children?

High-quality preschool is a sound investment. The long-term economic benefits are strong. Every dollar invested in high-quality preschool could produce a return-on-investment of $5 in lower government costs and economic benefit.

The Seattle Preschool Program focuses on what’s best for children, our most valuable asset.

Our Program promotes social justice and will help create a stronger and more equitable education system.

Our Program follows the scientific evidence of what works: full-day instruction, 180 days per year, highly qualified and credentialed teachers, play-based purposeful curricula, and outcome measurements to make certain we are doing it right.

Our Program honors teachers, raising compensation to be in line with K-12 teachers and offering tuition support for acquiring early learning credentials and creating long-term career pathways.

Our Program adds new funding and doesn’t take funding away from existing preschool providers; it’s voluntary and it’s designed to reach more children – 2,000 more by the end of the first four years.

Our Program fosters classroom diversity because the evidence shows that classrooms that are economically mixed and culturally diverse are best for all children, especially those who are the furthest behind in social and academic development.

Over the past six months, I’ve visited 18 preschool classrooms across Seattle. I’ve spoken with teachers and directors, parents and kids. The children made the greatest impact as I watched them play, complete projects in their little workgroups, and talk with their teachers. They were having a blast.

These kids, and the thousands who aren’t in a high quality preschool today, deserve the best from us. It’s not too late to call your councilmembers and urge them to move the Seattle Preschool Program forward.

All our children deserve a strong and fair start in school. Let’s do what it takes to give them one.