School in Seattle starts in less than three weeks, and as of late Thursday, there were still 80 spots left for toddlers in the city’s growing preschool program.
The Seattle Preschool Program (SPP) is currently accepting applications for the 2019-20 school year for kids who turn 3 or 4 years old by August 31, according to a Wednesday statement from the City.
The program, which has served about 2,900 children since its 2014 founding, will be offered at 68 sites this year — 25 more than last year, said a Department of Education and Early Learning spokesman. Several spots in particular are open in the Central and South Seattle neighborhoods, the statement said.
“Seattle is committed to ensuring that children throughout our amazing city have the skills they need to thrive when they enter Kindergarten,” Dwane Chappelle, director of the Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning, said in the statement.
Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until March 31, 2020, for any openings throughout the year. The preschool program is offering about 135 more spots this year, increasing the number of openings from 1,600 last year to 1,735 now.
Voters approved the four-year beta program about five years ago, but it received continued funding through a $619 million Family, Education, Preschool and Promise levy last fall. The new funding has increased the number of spots at each site.
Tuition is calculated on a sliding scale based on household income and family size, and many children qualify for free tuition, the statement said. Last year, about 84% of SPP families received fully subsidized tuition.
Studies show that kids who attend preschool are better prepared for kindergarten than kids who don’t. Because the brain develops so rapidly during early childhood, preschool experiences can have huge impacts on kids’ cognitive skills. A 2017 report also showed that while all kids benefit from preschool, lower-income kids often gain more than higher-income children because they don’t have as much access to educational resources before beginning kindergarten.
While state legislators and advocates are pushing to increase enrollment and funding for preschools, about 57% of the state’s young children are still missing out on early education. About 107,000 kids ages 3 and 4 were not enrolled in nursery school or preschool from 2015 to 2017, according to the National KIDS COUNT, an Annie E. Casey Foundation project that tracks the well-being of children in the U.S. (The Annie E. Casey Foundation also funds Education Lab).
A 2014 analysis commissioned by the city of Seattle found that around a third of Seattle’s preschool-age population, or 12,000 3- and 4-year-olds, were not enrolled in preschool, The Seattle Times reported.
According to an outside evaluation conducted last September, the city’s preschool program is helping — the study showed overall positive trends in students’ literacy and language skills, but a need for improvement in math, the Times reported. Researchers recommended that in the future, SPP focus on quality of instruction and further integrating learning into children’s activities.
The 2018 report also said the quality of the city’s preschool plan exceeded that of some other major city and state child-care systems. But a recent study conducted by WalletHub — a Washington, D.C. -based credit reporting company — focused on preschools’ access, quality and economic support, found the Evergreen State came in at 16, right after South Carolina, Wisconsin and Oklahoma.
SPP leaders say the program is constantly advancing.
“We know the impact preschool can have on lives of young people,” Director of Early Learning Monica Liang-Aguirre said in the statement. “We want to make sure as many parents and preschools programs as possible are taking advantage of this valuable opportunity.”