Councilmember Tim Burgess
Preschool for All Seattle plan passes Council Committee
SEATTLE - A City Council committee approved legislation this morning establishing a work plan to make voluntary, high-quality preschool available and affordable to all 3 and 4 year old children in Seattle.
"Preschool for all of Seattle's children will not only enable them to flourish but also create a safer city, a smarter workforce, and a brighter future for everyone," said Councilmember Tim Burgess, chair of the Government Performance & Finance Committee, where this morning's vote occurred. "Extensive studies from experts across the country demonstrate that high-quality preschool leads not only to better academic achievement, but also to better health, higher-paying jobs, and safer neighborhoods. I believe Seattle is ready to take this bold step for our city's children."
The legislation enables the City Council, working with the City's Office for Education and local experts providing early learning opportunities, to accomplish the following over the next 6 to 9 months:
"By expanding high-quality preschool to all children, we will ensure that no families fall through the cracks," said Councilmember Nick Licata. "For families who choose to participate, high-quality preschool creates economic opportunity because the children are more likely to graduate from high school and start solid careers and the parents and guardians will have more time to build their own careers and earning power."
Proficiency in reading by 3rd grade is a key indicator of whether children will graduate from high school. The Seattle School District's most recent scorecard shows that approximately 22% of students are not proficient on the State's 3rd grade reading test and approximately 23% of students do not graduate from high school. These statistics are significantly worse for Seattle's African American, Hispanic, Native American, and immigrant youth.
High-quality preschool has proven to be a cost-effective means to address the achievement gap by preparing students to be ready to learn at kindergarten and for the academic and behavioral expectations of K-12 education.
"I am wholeheartedly in favor of universal preschool for 3 and 4 year olds in Seattle, and the City Council's bold leadership in moving forward with this ambitious plan is be applauded," said Kevin C. Washington, Tabor 100 Education Committee Chairman and Treasurer of the State's nonprofit education leader Thrive By Five WA. "Research in early learning has shown great leverage in the dollars invested in academic and socio-emotional growth during those preschool critical years. The School District will also benefit greatly from having children better prepared when they walk through those kindergarten doors."
Several other jurisdictions - including Boston, San Francisco, the State of Oklahoma, the State of West Virginia, and 31 local districts in New Jersey - are already implementing high-quality preschool open to all children and, according to independent studies, the participating children are achieving the intended positive outcomes.
Long-term evaluations such as the High Scope Perry study, Abecedarian project, and the Chicago Child-Parent Center program demonstrate that high-quality preschool leads not only to better academic achievement (such as higher reading scores and stronger high school graduation rates), but also to better health, higher-paying jobs, and lower rates of criminal behavior.