Seattle Pre-K Initiative

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has declared victory for Proposition 1B, an initiative he himself supported to establish a subsidized preschool program.

The mayor made the announcement around 8:30 p.m. election night, shortly after early returns showed Prop. 1B leading with 67 percent of the votes over Proposition 1A.

Prop. 1B's pilot program would eventually cover preschool tuition for up to 2,000 low-income kids through a four-year property tax hike.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Seattle's elected leaders can hardly describe the proposed preschool pilot program at the heart of Proposition 1B without using the phrase "high-quality."

City education officials frequently invoke these words when speaking about their desire to pass a four-year, $58 million property tax hike to not only cover preschool tuition for as many as 2,000 low-income kids, but to ensure these children receive the greatest possible benefit from the program.

But amid a broader debate over whether voters ought to choose the city's plan over a competing childcare initiative, Proposition 1A, a smaller debate has roiled among early educators: What exactly constitutes "high-quality" preschool?

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

The city-backed campaign to pass a preschool proposal on Seattle's November ballot has announced its first television advertising buy just a day after an opposing, union-backed campaign hit the airwaves with ads of its own.

Organizers for a campaign to pass Proposition 1B — a plan to hike property taxes to pay some low-income students preschool tuition — unveiled two TV spots Tuesday as part of a "six-figure," week-long ad buy. One of the ads features former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Supporters of a campaign to raise wages and create a training program for Seattle's childcare workers are hitting the airwaves, unveiling a commercial that will air during one of the city's most-watched television events: Monday night's Seahawks game.

AP Photo
S.C. Johnson Wax

Childcare costs in King County are among the highest in the nation, according to a recently-released analysis.

The report shows King County's costs are high even by the standards of Washington state, one of the ten least-affordable states for childcare. Someone earning the median income for single mothers in King County could sink more than half of her salary into the $17,300 average annual cost for infant childcare — a cost already $5,000 higher than the state average.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

A union-backed advocacy group for Seattle childcare workers has appealed a lower court ruling that pits a voter initiative the group favors, Initiative 107, against a city-endorsed pre-kindergarten proposal on the November ballot.

The advocacy group, Yes for Early Success, asked the state Court of Appeals to review a King County judge's decision that states Seattle voters cannot cast votes in favor of both I-107 and the city's proposed preschool plan.

Kyle Stokes / KPLU

Come November, voters can choose one or neither of the two ballot measures that deal with childcare — but not both, according to a King County judge's ruling.

Judge Helen Halpert on Friday shot down a legal challenge designed to allow Seattle voters a chance to approve both measures, namely a pilot program to fund low-income kids' preschool tuition and a minimum wage hike for the city's more than 4,000 childcare workers.

Kyle Stokes

Seattle voters might not have to choose between the two early childhood education programs slated for the November ballot despite city leaders' warnings that the two questions are incompatible and contradictory.

Union leaders backing Initiative 107, a ballot initiative that would hike wages and mandate training for the Seattle's 4,000 early childhood workers, filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking to allow voters to give separate up-or-down votes on their measure as well as on a second, city-backed proposal to create a preschool pilot program.

Kyle Stokes

Two proposals dealing with early childhood learning will appear on Seattle ballots this November, but only one can win.

That's the electoral scenario Seattle City Council members set up Monday with their vote to put a proposed preschool pilot program on the November ballot, formally asking voters to hike property taxes to join cities like Denver and Boston in funding an early childhood education program aimed at low-income families.

But voters will have to make a choice. They can approve either the pilot program or Initiative 107, a union-backed citizens' initiative that raises the minimum wage to $15 an hour for more than 4,000 childcare workers and creates a training program for early childhood educators. 

Charla Bear / KPLU

The Seattle City Council on Monday delayed a vote on a proposed preschool expansion plan following last week's announcement that a separate referendum had gained enough signatures to appear on the November ballot.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray asked the council to hold off and study how Initiative 107, a "potentially competing proposal," would impact the chances of the preschool pilot program city leaders had also hoped to put before voters in the next general election.

Eric Gay / AP Photo

Seattle City Council members appear ready to approve two preschool-related ballot items for this November's ballot. 

The council will likely vote at its Monday meeting to ask Seattle voters to approve a package Seattle City Council President Tim Burgess has been pushing for the past year: a preschool pilot program funded by a four-year, $58 million property tax hike.

But council members will also likely certify that a separate, union-backed initiative has received enough signatures to go to the voters. If approved, Initiative 107 would hike the minimum wage to $15 an hour for more than 4,000 childcare workers and create a training program for early childhood educators.

Cliff Owen / AP Photo

Most Seattle parents put their kids in preschool, but only one-third of the city's children attend full time and — according to results of a citywide survey of 1,300 parents released Tuesday — black and Latino families especially struggle to afford pre-K services. 

The results of the city-commissioned poll come less than a week before City Council members get their first look at legislation that would place a four-year, $58 million property tax question before voters this November that would eventually fund 2,000 pre-K slots in the city if approved.

Ted S. Warren / AP Photo

Here's a bitter pill preschool teachers must often swallow: they could probably make more money by teaching kids who are just one year older.

The average Washington state preschool instructor makes $28,400 annually — half of what he or she could earn teaching kindergarten. In public school settings, a kindergarten teacher takes home $53,800 every year to a pre-K teacher's $44,700. It makes it harder to lure the best teachers into preschool jobs, or keep them beyond their first few often-rocky years in the classroom.

"I think early childhood is often more attractive than the higher grades for many [teachers], and the pay is so low it still keeps them away," said Steve Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research.

Eric Gay / AP Photo

 

"Lattés cost more," said Seattle Mayor Ed Murray of the property tax hike homeowners would see on their monthly bills if voters approve his proposal to expand the city's preschool services.

Under the proposed four-year, $58 billion tax hike, Murray says the average Seattle homeowner would pay an extra $3.60 in property taxes each month to fund a pilot project serving 2,000 mostly low-income preschool-age kids.

City leaders hope the program will eventually serve even some middle-class preschoolers in the future. But that will cost more money, and Murray isn't clear yet on from where that funding will come.

Eric Gay / AP Photo

Some children have never held a pencil or a pair of scissors when they start the year in teacher DaZanne Davis Porter's kindergarten class.

They enter her classroom at Seattle's Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary at the beginning of the year and "cannot recognize any letters, any colors, any numbers, any shapes," Davis Porter said. "By the end of the year, they are [expected] to be reading."

"When you're starting the journey behind," she asked, "do they ever catch up?"

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