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    Seattle mayor: Trade a latte a month for universal preschool

    Ed Murray has a new plan: You pay a bit more on property taxes, everyone gets to go to preschool.
    Seattle mayor Ed Murray and Seattle Public Schools superintendent Jose Banda

    Seattle mayor Ed Murray and Seattle Public Schools superintendent Jose Banda Photo: Ana Sofia Knauf

    Mayor Ed Murray announced his plan to bring universal preschool to Seattle in a press conference Thursday. Under his proposal, a property tax increase would fund voluntary high-quality preschool programs for all pre-K Seattle residents.

    Funds would be generated through a four-year property tax levy, raising $58 million, or about $14.5 million per year. For the average homeowner, this would cost them about $3.63 per month — “about the cost of your average latte,” said Murray.

    The goal of the program is to close the school preparedness gap for young children and eliminate the cost-barrier for low-income families enrolling their kids in early learning programs.

    The program will be voluntary for families and preschool providers, including the Seattle School Districts and other private preschools.

    Children of families making up to $47,700 annually — twice the federal poverty line — would be eligible to enroll in these programs for free. Families earning more would pay an annual copay, decided along a sliding scale.

    The initiative would create classrooms with a maximum of 20 students per teacher to promote high-quality, “play-based learning," said Michael Fong, deputy director of the Mayor’s Office of Policy and Innovation. Instruction would be inclusive of students with disabilities and behavioral issues and English language learners.

    The ordinance, if approved by the Seattle City Council and Seattle voters during the November general election, would add 2,000 children to the Seattle preschool system by 2018.

    Ana Sofia Knauf is a multimedia journalist living in Seattle. Her ultimate goal is to write about people whose stories would otherwise go untold. Her work has also appeared in the Puget Sound Business Journal, The Seattle Globalist, and The Seattle Times.

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    Posted Thu, May 15, 7 p.m. Inappropriate

    Here's my problem with any property tax.
    I don't own any property. I'm sure many citizens in Seattle don't either. So if a property tax for Metro for preschool is put forward, how am I, in good conscience, supposed to vote for or against it?
    The only stake I have is that my landlord, the owner of the property I live on, will pass this increase on to me.
    BUT there's no guarantee that what is passed on to me is the actual cost for me to live on this property. There are no safeguards for tenants.

    Next, abstractly, preschool is good.
    I have no children.
    Children are the future of the nation, the world.
    Again- there are no safeguards that the quality of the education throughout the district will provide the benefits promised/proposed.

    So with no stake in the future (I'll be dead) and no guarantee that my standard of living will be safe from egregious landowners, how can I support this and other actions for taxes on people who do control the quality of life that I and honestly everyone should have access to?



    Posted Fri, May 16, 10:38 a.m. Inappropriate

    "No stake in the future (I'll be dead)" — does that mean you don't care about the environment, either? Or anything with long-term ramifications?

    "No guarantee that my standard of living will be safe from egregious landowners" — I agree this is a problem (and I'm a landlord myself), but isn't this already the case? Let me put it this way: what's to stop landlords from raising rents as high as the market will bear right now? How will this tax make things worse? I'm not going to raise my tenants' rent by $1.82 a month (I own a duplex) because of this. Yes, some landlords will raise rents by $10, $20, $30, $50, $100, using these property taxes as an excuse... but it's just going to be an excuse. There's nothing stopping them from doing that anyway.

    I guess I'm thinking of it this way... as long as rents are going up anyway, better that some of the money goes to programs like this than all of it going into landlords' pockets — and that includes mine.

    Posted Fri, May 16, 11:58 a.m. Inappropriate

    Jay, As Benjamin Lukoff already noted, the presence or absence of property taxes have little to do with your rent. Your landlord can choose to increase the rent or not with or without the excuse of increased property taxes. Why are you even looking for a "guarantee that what is passed on to me is the actual cost for me to live on this property"? Would you have that without the additional property tax? Do you have it now?

    As for "safeguards that the quality of the education throughout the district will provide the benefits promised/proposed" I have to wonder what assurances you would accept? What possible assurance could anyone offer?

    How about instead of using impossible hypotheticals as the basis for a decision you use some basic principles. Universl early education is good. It provides children with critical opportunities to improve their own lives as well as the quality of life for the entire society.


    Posted Fri, May 16, 8:26 a.m. Inappropriate

    I'll take the latte. Pay back the teachers union with your own coffee money.


    Posted Fri, May 16, 11:59 a.m. Inappropriate

    If it is wrong to support this idea solely because it might be a benefit to the teachers' union (no matter how unclear that would be), then isn't it equally wrong to oppose this idea solely because it might be a benefit to the teachers' union?


    Posted Fri, May 16, 12:31 p.m. Inappropriate



    Posted Tue, May 20, 8:18 p.m. Inappropriate

    It must be so liberating to be a hypocrite.


    Posted Fri, May 16, 10:32 a.m. Inappropriate

    A family of four pulling in $228k gets a minor subsidy under this plan. WTF? The subsidy part of this needs major restructuring


    Posted Fri, May 16, 10:39 a.m. Inappropriate

    Has the actual sliding scale been published yet?

    Posted Fri, May 16, 1:54 p.m. Inappropriate

    Yes, was published in hard copy of Seattle Times this morning but in the online version. This is quote from online version:

    "A family of four making almost $167,000 a year, for example, would get a 50 percent break on tuition. Even families making more than $238,500 would get a 10 percent discount"

    -----this seems strange and not what I expected.


    Posted Fri, May 16, 10:45 a.m. Inappropriate

    20 to 1 teacher seems like a very high ratio. My son was in an all boys class of 12 boys and 1 teacher. It was plenty. When parents help out though then the official ratio can be higher.


    Posted Fri, May 16, 4:55 p.m. Inappropriate

    Yes - that would be very high. It's 20 students to one teacher and one instructional assistant. The author missed that point.

    Posted Fri, May 16, 12:37 p.m. Inappropriate

    I already pay > 10% of my gross annual wages for property taxes. I don't have and haven't had (and cannot have) children in the educational system although I've been paying for it for decades despite what I see as the poor results. I'm paying for stadiums I rejected. I'm paying for trains and buses I don't use because they don't serve me. I'm paying huge salaries to Mayor Murray and everyone else in executive positions in government despite their absolute refusal to behave in a fiscally responsible manner. I'm paying for bike lanes that I don't use and all the little signs and decals sprouting up all over the place to make sure the cyclists can figure out where they're going, although if they need directions perhaps they could just get maps. I am paying huge money for gas because traffic has become so much worse due to dedicated bus and bike lanes and no bus or other transit can take me to work in less than 2.5 hours each way. And now I am supposed to pay for child care, too? I can't afford it. While I find the idea of helping low income children have at least parts of their days filled with stability and enrichment laudable, government needs to review its priorities and find ways to use the money it's already taken from us. Perhaps forego some of their rich salaries, cut back on less necessary spending ideas, in other words behave in something resembling the way those of us that it's beggaring are required to do to keep roofs over our heads, the lights on, the water running, and food on our tables. No thanks to this one if funded by a property tax.


    Posted Tue, May 20, 8:20 p.m. Inappropriate

    I know how you feel. I'm paying for wars I didn't want.

    But that's how democracy works.


    Posted Sat, May 17, 12:53 p.m. Inappropriate

    Lukoff: Yes, some landlords will raise rents by $10, $20, $30, $50, $100, using these property taxes as an excuse... but it's just going to be an excuse.
    If costs rise, whether due to taxes, utilities, rising HOA fees, ect...

    Then rents need to rise. I can't think of a BETTER reason to increase rents than an increase in the cost of owning/running the property.

    What IS a good reason, then, to raise rents? If a higher monthly rent is in line with the surrounding market (which also has to contend with the same rise in costs) why do you imply its just "an excuse" to try and match income to expenses? Has it occurred to you that not all landlords are actually MAKING money on their rentals, or not much at all? Do you not bank a little extra cash in your situation, in case you get hit with an expensive repair, or are you too busy serving as a safety net for your tenant? Are you naive as to think "landlord" = "filthy rich"?


    Posted Sat, May 17, 11:25 p.m. Inappropriate

    All levies: NO.

    One thing we know from looking at how local government spends its money: There is never once a cash shortage here, not ever.


    Posted Tue, May 20, 8:24 p.m. Inappropriate

    NotFan, do you ever actually look at how local government spends its money? In truth?

    As for a cash shortage, there was a whole big lawsuit about it, the McCleary decision - it was in all the papers - that proved that we were, in fact, NOT spending enough on education. It went all the way to the State Supreme Court. I assure you that a number of very serious and qualified people examined the question and reached that conclusion honestly.

    Exactly how much do you think the government SHOULD be spending to provide education and what is the basis for your number?


    Posted Sun, May 18, 7:57 p.m. Inappropriate

    Yes on universal preschool.

    BUT, it's all in the details.

    1) Where will all these preschools be housed? Not in Seattle schools (which already have some). Seattle schools are packed to the gills and they cannot put portables at some schools fast enough or renovate fast enough for all the students who are surging into SPS. It's estimated that the district will be at nearly 54,000 students next year.

    And yet, the press handout as well as the City plan state that Seattle Schools' classrooms will be used as one of the spots for preschools.

    (And I note that the Mayor not only did not introduce Superintendent Jose Banda by name but not a single member of the Seattle School Board was at this rollout.)

    2) It is not "just" going to cost $58M to enact this (the amount for the levy). It is going to take much more. Citizens have already voted in the largest Families and Education levy in the history of Seattle (and bless them for it). How is the public to balance out what to vote for or against? Transportation? Parks? Preschool?

    3) the report talks about data sharing which is very troubling. The Department of Education and the Department of Labor are already working on a data line of pre-K to age 20 for all public school students. It includes items like discipline records, living status, and parent income among other items. Why all this data and who has access to it? And, are parents able to opt out if they don't want their child's data shared?

    4) Mayor Murray talked about this issue in moral terms. I think it could also be said that it is not moral for the Legislature to continue to not fully fund K-12 education.


    Posted Mon, May 19, 11:44 p.m. Inappropriate

    So it's No?


    Posted Mon, May 19, 11:45 p.m. Inappropriate

    Good discussion (for the most part) BTW.


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