SEATTLE voters have a big decision to make in the Nov. 4 election: whether to approve and fund a high-quality preschool program for young children. By approving Seattle Proposition 1B, voters would provide the funding to expand access for low- and middle-income families in the city’s prekindergarten program.
There is no better way the citizens of Seattle could help give our children a good start and improve their success in school. It is the best investment we could make.
The evidence is compelling regarding the impact of pre-K on school success. Research clearly demonstrates the significant, sustained gains children can make through at least fifth grade when they graduate from high-quality pre-K programs.
I commend the City of Seattle for doing its homework. Officials visited and studied high-quality programs in other states and cities and then met with child-care and preschool providers, parents, teachers and community leaders across Seattle to develop their preschool proposal. The city has a very thoughtful and deliberate plan for implementing pre-K on a phased basis to make sure that programs are high-quality and course corrections can be made as they grow.
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The fact that there is a second measure on the ballot, Proposition 1A, has been a source of confusion and frustration for many voters I have talked to.
Proposition 1A talks about child-care quality and affordability, critically important to working parents seeking care for their children. There is no question that increased funding for child care is essential to improving affordability and quality. But 1A provides no funding for child care. For 1A to promise affordability to parents and increased wages for child-care providers, with no funding to do it, is a cruel, false promise, unless parents sue the city to enforce the 10 percent affordability standard stated in the proposition.
Is that the way we should be funding affordable child care, through lawsuits and forcing reductions in other city programs? A better strategy would be for the city and the state to redouble their efforts to increase funding for quality child care and provide the resources to pay child-care professionals a livable wage.
Proposition 1A also promises to improve training and professional development for child care by establishing a training institute and workforce development board. Four years ago, Washington state received a $60 million Race to the Top federal grant to improve quality throughout our early learning system. The state has created and implemented a quality rating and improvement system called Early Achievers that establishes quality standards, and provides professional development, educational scholarships and individual coaching to help both pre-K and child-care professionals meet those standards. And, it creates a rating system based on solid research. Early Achievers is receiving national acclaim for its research-based standards and strong infrastructure for improving quality.
The City of Seattle worked with the state Department of Early Learning to ensure that Proposition 1B builds on and complements Early Achievers. Rather than building on the structure that has been developed with millions of public dollars, Proposition 1A would create a new set of standards and a separate training institute for Seattle’s early learning providers.
Giving kids a great start is one of the best possible ways to narrow the growing opportunity gap and improve educational outcomes for Seattle’s youngest students. The voters of Seattle have the opportunity to truly make a difference for thousands of children who would start kindergarten ready in the years ahead. Dr. Dimitri Christakis at Seattle Children’s Hospital said it perfectly: “Change the beginning of the story and you change the whole story.” Please vote yes for Proposition 1B.
State Rep. Ruth Kagi, a Seattle Democrat, chairs the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee.