(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 children 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: