What started as a quiet night for the Proposition 1B campaign gathering on Capitol Hill turned into a packed and raucous party. Proposition 1A and 1B were opposing pre-K measures on this year’s ballot, a result of failed negotiations between the city of Seattle and the union that represents its pre-school teachers. While some pundits warned that the stalemate — and the dueling propositions — would doom the pre-k initiative, the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of the city’s Prop. 1B proposal.
1A called for an accelerated $15 minimum wage for educators and would have established multiple governing bodies to facilitate communication with the city, oversee business, policy and investments and provide training and certifications for teachers and staff.
1B is a four-year pilot program designed to provide free pre-K for low-income families; that is, families earning less than 300 percent of the poverty level or just above $70,000 for a family of four. The program is voluntary and targets 3-4 year olds. Funding will come from a hike in property taxes.
Many figured the pre-K vote would go down to the wire, that the battle between 1A and 1B wouldn’t be resolved until all ballots were counted. But when the first tallies went up at 8:15 p.m., 1B enjoyed a massive lead and the crowd the Sole Repair on Capitol Hill erupted. “We were expecting this to be close,” said councilmember Tim Burgess, “but this is huge. We’re going to win.”
The cheers had just begun to die down when Mayor Ed Murray walked into the room and the crowd erupted again. Without hesitation, he strode to the podium and declared victory: "While the rest of the nation is saying no, Seattle has said yes.”
Estela Ortega of El Centro de la Raza followed Murray to the pulpit and led a cheer: “Viva the children! Viva Ed Murray! Viva Proposition 1B!”
The Prop. 1A campaign did not throw a party, opting for a video statement instead. At the time of this posting, 1A supporters continued to hold out hope despite a seemingly insurmountable deficit.
“Tonight the only thing we know for sure is that two good ideas to improve early education for young children, Propositions 1A and 1B, cannot both pass,” said 1A campaign representative Karen Hart. “It’s unfortunate that City Hall deprived Seattle voters of the right to vote yes on two complimentary approaches by pitting these proposals against each other.”
In the end, it was a strange night for Seattle's opposing pre-K campaigns, which were so similar in their ultimate goals. As Karen Hart lamented, only one of them will move forward: That would be Proposition 1B which, said Ed Murray, “starts in September.”