Prop 1 aims to improve access to early learning with $600 million levy
Seattle voters next month will be asked to approve Prop 1, a more than $600 million education levy that covers multiple education programs in the city, including subsidized preschool.
The subsidized preschool program was approved as a four-year, $58 million pilot, in 2014, with a goal of eventually getting every kid in the city — regardless of income level — access to early learning.
Gail Joseph is with University of Washington’s College of Education and a member of the evaluation team that annually reviews the program, and says the latest review shows great results.
“We measured children’s skill in the fall and the spring of the year with direct child assessment in the areas of receptive vocabulary, so understanding words, their early literacy, their early math, their executive functioning skills and children in the Seattle preschool program made gains in every domain measured and those gains in literacy, language and math are larger than you would expect from just maturation – or age alone, which is good news,” Joseph said.
Joseph noted the gains in math were not as substantial as the previous year, so there is still room to improve.
Mayor Jenny Durkan was excited about the results.
“Our investment in pre-K is helping families be healthier throughout Seattle, and it’s an investment in our workforce development. Most importantly it’s an investment in the opportunity for our kids and for their families,” Durkan said at a press briefing Monday detailing the results of the review.
“As the evaluation says, the Seattle preschool program quality now exceeds some major city and state pre-K programs, it’s on par with the widely recognized New York City and San Antonio programs,” Durkan added.
Former mayor and city councilmember Tim Burgess — who was among those who led the initial effort for the pre-K programs — says it’s vital we keep it going.
“The results of this independent and objective evaluation make it very clear that we are ready to close the opportunity gap that has held back so many of our kids from lower-income families and communities of color,” Burgess said.
The city wants to extend and expand the program to more than double the number of kids to 2,500 by 2026.
But to even keep it going, voters are going to have to approve Prop 1 next month, the largest-ever property tax levy for education.
The current levy that pays for the preschool program expires at the end of the year, as does the Families Education levy, which pays for K-12 programs like family support and after school programs, as well as school-based health centers.
Prop 1 combines those two expiring levies, and also includes money to launch the mayor’s college promise program, covering two years of community college, or the equivalent for all Seattle graduates.
The combined seven-year levy for all of the programs would bring in close to $620 million, and cost the average homeowner $242 a year, or $20 a month, about $9 more a month than they were already paying under the two expiring levies.
With voters already dealing with higher property taxes due to the McCleary education fix and ST3, some have worried Prop 1 could fail.
The mayor’s message for voters who may be dealing with tax fatigue this Election Day:
We look at the range of things and opportunities and challenges that we have in Seattle, our homelessness programs, foster care, the criminal justice system – those things are feeding it – disproportionately people of color and disproportionately people that did not have educational opportunities – so if we are able to pivot and continue to support these great programs that we know work, give our kids that start we will see that Seattle becomes a better city.
“I think that it is one of the most important things any of us can do for opportunity for Seattle and its children,” Durkan added.