Video: Seattle Preschool Program announced in High Point

May 15, 2014 at 11:38 am | In West Seattle news, West Seattle politics | 35 Comments

(WSB photos by Patrick Sand)
11:38 AM: The achievement gap among Seattle students is “unacceptable,” Mayor Ed Murray has just told a gathering at High Point Commons Park’s outdoor amphitheater, starting the official announcement of the Seattle Preschool Program. Materials provided to us and other media reps say they’ll go to voters with a four-year property-tax levy to raise $14.5 million a year, costing “the average homeowner” $3.63 a month. It will be “voluntary for providers and participants and will build toward serving 2,000 chlldren in 100 classrooms by 2018.” Otherwise, “the moral cost is too high,” declared the mayor. More to come.

11:48 AM: “Every child in our city deserves a fair start … in life,” says Councilmember Tim Burgess, after being called by the mayor “the godfather” of the proposal. He says this would pay for full-day preschool. The announcement notes, “The program will have the ultimate goal of serving all eligible and interested 4-year-olds and all 3-year-olds from families making less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level in Seattle.” The classrooms in which they would be served would “be provided through a mixed-delivery system, with classrooms offered by Seattle Public Schools and community providers.” SPS Superintendent José Banda speaks shortly thereafter, saying the district looks forward to being “a partner” in this, and that he expects this will make Seattle “a model” for the rest of the country.

Asked about asking for yet another tax, the mayor acknowledges that “there’s a risk” but also says that if this helps bring a brighter future for more Seattle youth, “it’s going to save us money.”

A few more points:

*Free tuition for families earning less than 200% of federal poverty level

*Sliding scale for families earning more than that, “with at least some level of subsidy for all families”

*”Ongoing, independent evaluation” promised for a “feedback loop” to shape the program as it continues

12:02 PM: Event wrapping up; we have it on video and will add when uploaded. If you watch TV news, you’ll see something about it tonight, as it was a full-scale regional-media turnout. Next step? The council will have to vote by early August to get this on the November ballot. Details here.

ADDED: Our video of the entire event:

35 Comments

  1. One latte a month – how will I ever afford it? :-)

    Comment by emo — 12:35 pm May 15, 2014 #

  2. anyone remember the “espresso tax” to fund early childhood programs that multi-millionaire Howard Shultz/Starbucks killed with lobbying dollars; we could have had all this fully funded for past decade if not for big money spreading doom and gloom about how a 10 cent tax on a latte (that would have funded education for young children) would somehow kill business; it was 10 cents, not on a coffee, just on a fancy high-priced latte/cappuccino; if I could afford a fancy latte/cappuccino, I would be thrilled to chip in 10 cents to educate our babies; we really need more creative bold ideas like this, and compassion, along with will to do the right thing

    Comment by Diane — 1:17 pm May 15, 2014 #

  3. When was this “espresso tax” proposed/killed? I’ve only lived in Seattle since the summer of 2011.

    Comment by DP — 2:04 pm May 15, 2014 #

  4. It was a tax on an unrelated item that was unfair – leaving it to coffee drinkers to pay for preschool.

    How is that right and fair in any sort of world?

    It would be better to tie to fast food such as McDonald’s, which at least caters to little kids.

    And again with the freebies. There is literally nothing this City will not give away free to a large percentage of people that use it.

    Comment by Ray — 2:09 pm May 15, 2014 #

  5. Espresso tax vote was almost 11 years ago.
    .
    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2003-09-18/news/0309190223_1_espresso-drinks-tax-jeff-babcock

    Comment by WSB — 2:39 pm May 15, 2014 #

  6. This may be a great idea, but calling it universal preschool is sort of disingenuous. If it’s universal, it should be “free” (I know, nothing is free) to everyone.

    Comment by Jeff — 2:49 pm May 15, 2014 #

  7. Jeff – the word “universal” is nowhere in our story, and with a quick scan I don’t find it on the official info page of the city either. Just a datapoint … TR

    Comment by WSB — 2:58 pm May 15, 2014 #

  8. So that is three new taxes on the ballot?

    1. Parks District
    2. Car Tab to “Save” Metro
    2. Universal Pre-School

    How many more will wee see?

    Comment by Paul — 3:38 pm May 15, 2014 #

  9. Thanks for answering my previous question re: the espresso tax.

    Comment by DP — 3:42 pm May 15, 2014 #

  10. Yesterday’s West Seattle Blog story used the word “universal”. .
    .

    Is it primarily a program to provide preschool for everyone? Or a program designed to mitigate the adverse conditions of our poorest citizens?
    .
    It does feel a bit funny that many working parents will apparently be paying twice – the tax and the tuition.

    Comment by Lura Ercolano — 3:46 pm May 15, 2014 #

  11. @Ray,
    The thing is, these things are ‘free’ because they benefit everyone. Free education for everyone up to Grade 12 is not just good for the kids who get educated, it’s good for the people who may employ them, it’s good for the people who live near them, it’s good for society that needs them to carry out civic duties like sitting on a jury. When the benefit is great enough to the rest of us, it’s worth having it be free.

    Comment by emo — 3:48 pm May 15, 2014 #

  12. Our babies don’t need formal education. 3 and 4 year olds learn best through play, and at these tender ages, it is better for them to spend time bonding with loving parents who can teach them everything they need to know before kindergarten. If this was a tax for something that would help put broken families back together, encourage more attentive parenting, or make it easier for one parent to stay home with their young children, then that would be something I could really get behind.

    Comment by CE — 4:05 pm May 15, 2014 #

  13. wow. I guess taxpayers are expected to provide cheap transit and day care for everybody.

    .
    there is some point where “enough is enough” regarding the constant drumbeat for new taxes.

    Comment by flimflam — 4:18 pm May 15, 2014 #

  14. We are already paying a Levy for Families and Education passed in 2011. If preschool isn’t about both, I don’t know what is. Divert monies from this levy, or barring that wait until it expires and then peddle this proposal.

    Comment by JayDee — 4:45 pm May 15, 2014 #

  15. What has happened to the Federally-funded Head Start program? Is it still around? In what ways is this program different?

    Comment by Lura Ercolano — 4:58 pm May 15, 2014 #

  16. Weird to me to be trying to get this rammed through when they don’t even have all the schools on full day state-paid kindergarten.
    Why?

    Comment by zark — 5:03 pm May 15, 2014 #

  17. Zark, I agree.

    Until my kindergartner gets to go to school for free, I just can’t support this. Our state cannot afford to do this until they fix all of the other problems at our SPS.

    Comment by parent — 6:21 pm May 15, 2014 #

  18. 1) ~$7500 a year / child is cheap if it was the same quality of schooling and care my kids get right now for more than twice that amount per child.
    .
    2) 2,000 kids, that won’t cover all the kids, how will the determine which kids get to qualify?
    .
    3) Bellevue school district has infant on up, here’s their program and pricing parents pay. Maybe Seattle Schools wants to talk to Bellevue Schools and learn how to get money and not always hire staff that steal millions. http://www.bsd405.org/Portals/0/Student%20Services/Childcare/2014-15%20NEW.pdf

    Comment by Mike — 8:12 pm May 15, 2014 #

  19. CE, I don’t fully agree with you. “Our babies don’t need formal education. 3 and 4 year olds learn best through play, and at these tender ages, it is better for them to spend time bonding with loving parents who can teach them everything they need to know before kindergarten”
    .
    Sadly, kids that don’t get early formal education are falling behind kids that do. My 4 year old is able to read, write and do basic math in her head. As a person in the tech industry, I can tell you the USA is way behind when it comes to education. A large number of my co-workers grew up in societies with far less money and a superior education system and they are damn smart.
    .
    I do agree that kids need loving families with strong parental support behind them. However, they also need to be socialized and not be hermits.

    Comment by Mike — 8:51 pm May 15, 2014 #

  20. Hey CE- have you heard of co-op preschools? It’s about learning through play, it’s also about providing parenting support to families (“broken” or otherwise), it also builds community and gets kids ready to be in a classroom. Highly recommend co-op for, well, all of our society.

    Comment by Nw mama — 9:49 pm May 15, 2014 #

  21. Couldn’t be more for quality pre-K…. But, SPS “political and collective will to change the landscape….”Supt. Banda”" contradicts Supt. Banda’s statement at SPS, SW Town Hall Mtg in April @ Roxhill that he’d not yet been able to get a meeting w/ Mayor Murray to discuss this and other issues. Hopefully, that has occurred by now.

    Where will we put these new programs? Where is there appropriate space/infrastructure for these expected pre-K youngsters? SPS schools are bursting at the seams, maintenance is decades behind, BEX IV coming on line slowly and just about every school in the city is over capacity already and portable farms are growing rapidly.

    Perhaps the kindest thing the city can do is lend SPS a demographer or 5 for planning beyond the next year’s crisis.

    Laudable goals but distressing pragmatics. Power grab, city control of schools in our future,so some cynics say. Councilman Burgess was accused of that when he was running for Mayor….

    Ironic as well is that Neighborhood House (location of this press conference) gave South Seattle Middle College asylum for its critically important program after SPS failed to assist it in the not too distant past ….. No mention of that tenant and its mission (referring to the collaboration narrative gist – let’s all hold hands and move forward – note that neither Mayor Murray nor Supt. Bamda involved but points to long sad history of disconnects and failure to leverage resources and “silos”).

    Hopefully, this pre-k pilot project will work, the right folks will collaborate, funds will be found, and quality delivered in short order, the program successful and expanded, and we all benefit.

    Think that was the point from the McCleary Supreme Court decision on adequate funding as a constitutional duty for k-12 as well….not much progress there, obviously – part of the same continuum.

    Comment by Leslie — 10:15 pm May 15, 2014 #

  22. Leslie – FWIW, we did see Alonzo from MCHS at the event. I can’t speak to whether it was mentioned at all – the outdoor acoustics were a little spotty, despite a PA system, and I was a couple rows back while my co-publisher was shooting video and audio in the media scrum

    Comment by WSB — 10:20 pm May 15, 2014 #

  23. Socialism only works till we run out of other peoples money

    Comment by rob — 10:22 pm May 15, 2014 #

  24. Thanks Tracy, would expect nothing less from Alonzo Ybarra – a saver of lives, and real workaday unsung hero, like so many other unsupported teachers in this community.

    The point/frustration is the lack of coordination and leverage we could have for our kids, indeed all of our collective futures if we could breakdown the territories and work together on pragmatic important details.

    Comment by Leslie — 10:39 pm May 15, 2014 #

  25. If this was socialism, there’s no way 30 hedge fund managers would earn as much as all the public school teachers in the country.
    I’m really tired of people throwing that word around when they clearly have no idea what it means, it’s just a slogan for things they don’t like. For instance, if it’s really socialism, then it’s not actually other people’s money, since things are collectively owned.

    Comment by Not Karl Marx — 10:45 pm May 15, 2014 #

  26. Rob,
    .
    You know you’re quoting Margaret Thatcher there, right? Say what you want about the lady, but she was pretty good at spending other people’s money. I dunno, maybe you do, whatever.
    .
    I spent $3k last year for my son to receive full day (as opposed to half day) kindergarten in a public school. Didn’t really have the money, but I felt it was too important not to. My takeaway – if folks want a Montesorri level education for their kids, great. But maybe we should make basic education not a financial decision at all public schools first.

    Comment by McBride — 10:57 pm May 15, 2014 #

  27. Orcas, dolphins and salmon are here to take your questions.

    Comment by DTK — 12:02 am May 16, 2014 #

  28. @emo -
    The real takeaway from the study on Head Start’s effectiveness:

    “In summary, there were initial positive impacts from having access to Head Start, but by the end of 3rd grade there were very few impacts found for either cohort in any of the four domains of cognitive, social- emotional, health and parenting practices. The few impacts that were found did not show a clear pattern of favorable or unfavorable impacts for children.”

    If these were initial findings (granted the study could have been more comprehensive), then shouldn’t we hold on and make sure that what we’re throwing our money at really is effective? Is that a bad thing to say, or is it worse and a disservice to everyone to blindly throw money at problems simply to ‘do something’ and ‘feel better’? At an estimated $7,000+ per kid per year, and the promise that ‘everyone will get some subsidy’, why in the world would anyone agree that this is a good idea? Even if you could study this extensively and find a trove of great effects, then pass it – but only for those in greatest need.

    Comment by Rusty — 12:54 am May 16, 2014 #

  29. $58 million for 2000 kids. That’s $29,000 per kid (add sliding fee on top). Lasts only 4 years. How is this sustainable? It’s certainly not universal. The best private school in Seattle doesn’t even charge that much.

    How is this a good demonstration program? We have Headstart already. Enough with duplication. This is pork all wrapped up in cuddliness.

    If politicians want to take the moral high ground, start with funding K-12 per McCleary.

    Comment by woodthrush — 6:46 am May 16, 2014 #

  30. now we see why Prop 1 part 2 funding is not coming from an increase in property taxes. Murray has the property tax increases planned for the pre schools (plus the parks department tax increase). he’s got the cookie jars all lined up and he’s got a plan for what hand goes in each jar……..on top of these increases health care is going up like crazy……at some point you have to run the numbers and see if it’s cheaper for one spouse to stay at home, reduce your income and get some of the free stuff being handed out

    Comment by joel — 7:50 am May 16, 2014 #

  31. nw mama- co-op is great if your partner makes enough money full time that you can be a stay at home mom. unfortunately, not all people have that luxury and not everyone can get by on one income in this expensive city. but people make different choices than others with what they have and what they can get by on.

    Comment by sam-c — 8:27 am May 16, 2014 #

  32. Joel, I agree with you, this explains why Mayor Murray didn’t want to fund Metro with the property tax initiative.

    Comment by Marty2 — 8:35 am May 16, 2014 #

  33. I agree with McBride.

    Comment by Mat — 1:46 pm May 16, 2014 #

  34. The Families and Education levy was first passed in 2004 for 7 years at a cost of $117 million and then renewed in 2011 for another 7 years at a cost of $231 million. Where are these $$$ going?

    According to what was in the Seattle Times, “Although the city’s long term goal for the program wouldn’t be reached for at least 15 years, the levy would only pay for the first four years, which is considered a “demonstration phase” to make sure a high-quality system is in place before enrollment is expanded.” Obviously this is a levy that will come before you for renewal and probably be doubled, if any history is any indication, next time around. Count on it.

    Remember the $3.63 monthly for the “average homeowner” (define please) is on top of what you will be paying for the Parks District levy (assuming it passes which I am); Low Income Housing Levy; Families and Education Levy; Bridging the Gap Levy; Library Levy; and Seawall Levy.

    When do we have to admit that there are in fact homeowners who are being buried by these initiatives. Yes I know, this is democracy in action – voting on tax levies, but do you ever consider those that vote ‘no’ (nothing is 100% voter approved) and why they do? Or in our zeal to create a utopia will one have to be either rich or poor to live in Seattle?

    Comment by KT — 11:36 am May 17, 2014 #

  35. The City’s ‘Preschool For All’ initiative is a bold step towards providing high quality preschool experiences for children who otherwise would not have access to such programs. The primary focus is on making sure the UNDERSERVED get served. These are the children all the statistics point to, the 50% of kids ‘not ready’ for K, children who had no preschool experience before K, kids who are not up to level by 3rd grade, and yes mostly these children also receive free and reduced lunch. The difference (between Head Start) here is that the Preschool For All approach will be multi-income classrooms, the programs will serve a mix of free, (those who earn less than 200% of poverty) sliding scale (earn over 200%) and full pay families, (I absolutely disagree with everyone getting it for free, those of us that can afford to pay should although I appreciate the sliding fee based on your actual income) this is a far more realistic approach and gives everyone a better opportunity to learn how to get along in the world.
    The City is saying that for each child in the Preschool For All initiative the program will be reimbursed $10,500 a year (this is in the Mayors announcement) so we are talking about the real high quality indicators that you would expect with a private school; well educated and well paid staff, good facilities, support staff, access to early screening/assessment to ‘catch’ children with special needs so they can begin intervention sooner rather than later, low ratios (less students per teacher), and YES they are talking about research based, PLAY based programs but if you know anything about todays high quality play based programs you will also know that these approaches are absolutely focused on the attaining of skills; social, emotional, cognitive/academic, physical and more….. But learning these skills does not look like you are teaching a 4th grader. 3 and 4 year olds learn very differently from older children, actually 3 to 7 year olds learn very much in the same way which is why there is a rising tide, finally, of the PK-3 movement. This movement says that 3 to 7 year olds need something very different from the 8 and up crowd. This is all based on brain research and proven practices (and honestly just what we have known about children since forever….) that have outcomes that we know lead to better more productive educational futures, and lives. The focus on preschool is not and can not be just about academic achievement. All the other pieces of development that are MORE IMPORTANT at 3 and 4 must be in place before academic achievement can occur, LATER.

    This project will be rolled out. The interim phase will be a pilot, I think for 4 years ? to serve the 2000 and then slowly add more and more facilities (many will be currently operating childcares/preschools that meet the City’s qualifications) and I think it said it would be 20 years before full implementation could be achieved. They are saying they want QUALITY before quantity, which is very wise.

    Having said all that, I’m not all in. I want to see the fine print. The City says it will support the continued education of current teachers so that they can earn their BA in Early Childhood Education, (which I very much favor) but how will they do that? There are very few options for BA’s in ECE from reputable schools that can accomodate already full time working professionals who will continue to get paid very little while at school. And this will demand that teachers with a BA get paid a salary equivalent to public school teachers-yes, they get very well compared to their childcare and preschool teachers many of whom already have BA’s, so where does that money come from? Many many complex issues still ahead.

    Comment by SpeakLoud — 5:35 pm May 17, 2014 #

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