Seattle officials say the pilot program will serve more than 200 children in at least 12 classrooms, with some seats still open for 3- and 4-year-olds.
Seattle officials have selected four providers and 10 sites for the first year of the city’s new subsidized-preschool pilot program, Mayor Ed Murray announced Monday.
Classes will be held in neighborhoods across the city, from Greenwood in North Seattle to the Central District and to Highland Park in Southwest Seattle. Only one site is north of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, however.
The program, which will subsidize preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds based on a sliding scale according to household income, will serve more than 200 children in at least 12 classrooms starting in September. Each classroom will have no more than 20 children, and a few more classrooms run by another provider might be added later this summer.
The student-to-teacher ratio will be 10 to 1 or lower, with a lead teacher, required to hold a four-year degree, and an assistant in each class.
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Yearly tuition will be free for families making up to 300 percent of the federal poverty rate, which currently is $70,000 for a family of four, officials said. Seattle’s highest-earning families will pay $10,173 per child for all 180 days of instruction.
Murray said the program’s goal is to help close the achievement gap between young people of color and their white peers. Nearly 90 percent of Seattle’s white third-graders meet math and reading standards while only half of black third-graders do, he noted.
“Today is about getting preschool right so we can actually change those outcomes,” the mayor said, mentioning a study in Chicago that found children with preschool instruction 29 percent more likely to graduate from high school than those without.
Funded over the next four years by a $58 million property-tax levy that voters approved last November, Seattle’s program will ramp up to serve 500 children starting in September 2016 and 2,000 starting in September 2018, officials say.
The ballot measure, which set academic standards and teacher pay in addition to authorizing a tax increase, beat out a competing proposition that would have established an immediate $15 minimum hourly wage and a training institute for child-care workers.
Murray and City Council President Tim Burgess lobbied for the first measure; unions representing child-care workers supported the other, which was unfunded.
Burgess on Monday described the pilot program as a precursor to subsidized preschool for every child in Seattle, something that will require much more funding.
The four providers selected by the city are Causey’s Learning Center in the Central District and Beacon Hill; the Community Day School Association (CDSA) at two sites on Beacon Hill and in the Rainier Valley, Highland Park and Leschi; Sound Child Care Solutions downtown and in Mount Baker; and Creative Kids Learning Center in Greenwood.
Only five providers applied, said Holly Miller, interim director of the city’s Department of Education and Early Learning. Asked if there had been too much red tape, Miller attributed the number of applicants to the program’s high standards.
The program requires each provider to use one of two play-based curricula, be licensed by the state and be highly rated by the state’s Early Achievers system.
The city gave priority to providers with experience serving children from low-income families and to those able to offer dual-language instruction.
Officials are working with other providers to help them qualify for the program in future years, Miller said. The city has $2.2 million available in tuition reimbursements for preschool teachers and $8.5 million to help providers renovate facilities.
The Seattle School Board will vote in August on whether to authorize Seattle Public Schools to become an additional provider for the city’s preschool program.
That partnership, if approved, likely would include an existing Seattle Public Schools preschool classroom at Bailey Gatzert Elementary School in the Central District.
The city has a backup plan for additional classrooms if the school district doesn’t participate, Murray said, adding that he expects the School Board to play ball.
“We feel really good about the conversations we’re having with them,” Murray said.
Many seats in the first 12 classrooms already are taken because families started registering their children directly with the providers months ago, Miller said.
Officials aren’t forcing those children to re-enroll. Families can request applications for the remaining 86 or so seats by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 206-684-3942.
If more children apply than there are seats, the city will work with the providers to select certain students, giving priority to children from low-income families and children who are English-language learners. Officials will also seek to enroll students from various income brackets.
The city isn’t providing any new transportation help for families through the program.