Seattle mayor: Trade a latte a month for universal preschool

How bright is the educational future of children in Seattle? Credit: Kent Wang/Flickr

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.

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