Voters should say yes to the Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Levy, a modest tax increase for some of the most important work the city is doing.

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The research is abundantly clear: Give children from low-income families an excellent preschool experience and they will be more likely to begin kindergarten on par academically with their more affluent classmates. High quality preschool can change a child’s path for life.

Seattle voters should say yes to the Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Levy because of the investment it makes in the city’s children from poor and lower middle-class families. The levy also supports more public school health centers and academic assistance in K-12 schools, as well as assures two free years of college for all high school graduates.

The levy combines two previous measures that expire this year: a preschool levy first approved by voters in 2014 and the Families and Education Levy last approved in 2011. A third element is added this year, from Mayor Jenny Durkan’s campaign: two years of free college for every Seattle public school graduate who wants to continue his or her education at one of the Seattle community colleges. This money would not replace federal and state aid, for those who qualify, but would cover the remaining tuition needs after that aid is exhausted.

Taxpayers with tax fatigue may wince at the increase in property taxes with this new combined levy — from 22.7 cents per $1,000 in assessed value in 2018 to 36.5 cents in 2019. But the tax burden would increase only by about $9 a month on a median priced house in Seattle. In 2018, taxpayers with a home assessed at $597,000 pay $135 for the current preschool and families and education levies. In 2019, when the median value is expected to be $665,000, that household would pay about $243, a difference of about $108.

Seniors, veterans and low-income households will qualify for exemptions from this property tax.

About 54 percent of the proposed $636.5 million seven-year levy will pay for Seattle’s preschool program, with a goal of increasing capacity from about 1,500 children to about 2,700 children a year. Another 29 percent of the funds would expand city investments in K-12 public schools, such as summer learning programs and family support services. About 11 percent would pay for school health centers, adding four schools to the current 25. The last 6 percent invests in the new College Promise program, to help as many as 1,000 students attend up to two free years at Seattle Colleges plus support programs to keep them in school.

Some lawmakers have expressed interest in expanding a similar program statewide. If the Legislature does so, the city should cut levy collections and send Seattle students to the state program. While Washington’s Department of Early Learning is slowly ramping up its preschool program, it will not pay for as many children because eligibility for the Seattle program extends beyond low-income families into the lower middle class. Children from families earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $75,000 for a family of four, can attend the Seattle program for free. Those above this income level can send their kids to the Seattle preschool program and pay on a sliding scale.

Education is a great investment in the community. New data on the Seattle preschool program is especially promising, showing better than expected gains in language acquisition, literacy and math. Making room for more children in this high quality program makes sense for Seattle.

Voters should say yes to the Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Levy, a modest tax increase for some of the most important work the city is doing.