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Originally published October 8, 2014 at 4:04 PM | Page modified October 8, 2014 at 8:12 PM

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Corrected version

Editorial: The Times recommends to vote for Proposition 1B to bolster quality preschool in Seattle

Seattle voters are faced with two competing prekindergarten measures on the November ballot. Only one actually creates, and funds, a high-quality network of classrooms open to all families. Vote for Proposition 1B.

Seattle Times Editorial

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We don't need preschool for even younger kids as we always seem to have a shortage of funds for regular school. Why add... MORE
At least the 1A proposal pays the actual preschool workers. Burgess and Murray's 1B proposal sets up a new city... MORE
Pre-K is a joke. By almost every study done in the last 20 years, for school kids in grades 4 and 5, there is... MORE


ONE after another, cities and states are seizing the potential of high-quality prekindergarten education. Research studies show it is a socio-economic leveler and a booster shot for school readiness. It also can even be a sweetener for creative-class companies looking for vibrant communities.

Seattle voters should hop on this train in November — no question. But don’t be confused by two pre-K options on the ballot.

Voters have to pick one or the other. They should vote for the one that would actually create and fund a network of high-quality, affordable classrooms for the city’s 3- and 4-year-olds. That’s Proposition 1B.

Proposition 1B, which was put on the ballot by Mayor Ed Murray and the Seattle City Council, is modeled on proven successes in other cities. Studies of high-quality prekindergarten programs in Boston and Tulsa, Okla., found that they boosted kids’ language, literacy and math abilities up to one year above children not in those programs. Other research suggests kids from low-income families gain the most.

The 1B measure is a controlled experiment, starting small and building up to 2,000 children, thanks to a four-year, $14.5 million-a-year property tax. If voters like, it can be expanded in future levies. The prekindergarten network would be open to families of all incomes, with fees on a sliding scale, and would ease the high cost of excellent child care for middle-class families.

Proposition 1B is also good for the child-care workforce, requiring a wage scale for teachers comparable to the public school system and paying for their training and education.

Contrast this approach with Proposition 1A, which was put on the ballot by unions.

Proposition 1A would tear up the carefully crafted $15 minimum wage deal the city struck earlier this year, accelerating the higher wage just for child-care workers.

There is no clear way to pay for this, other than passing the cost on to parents. Yet the 1A campaign promises, in a recent flier, that it “is the only proposal to lower child care costs for all parents.”

How would Proposition 1A accomplish all this without a funding source? By binding the City of Seattle to a policy goal of capping all families’ child-care payments — regardless of income — at 10 percent of gross income. That is a ruinously expensive mandate. A City of Seattle analysis estimates the cost at more than $100 million in the first year, potentially requiring a 10 percent across-the-board budget cut. It is a whopper of an unfunded mandate.

There is good reason that 1B — the measure that actually creates a high-quality prekindergarten network — has broad-spectrum support from businesses (including the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce), human services (the YMCA of Greater Seattle) and politicians (former Seattle Mayors Norm Rice and Charles Royer, and former King County Executive Ron Sims).

And although Proposition 1A is funded by unions ($735,000 from SEIU’s State Council and its Local 925), Proposition 1B, the city proposal, actually has broad support from labor, including the Martin Luther King County Labor Council.

The time is now for Seattle to embrace high-quality prekindergarten education to benefit the lives of its youngest citizens and the city as a whole. Only one measure actually creates, and funds, this promising idea.

Vote for Proposition 1B, the Seattle Preschool Program.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, Blanca Torres, Robert J. Vickers, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

Information in this article, originally published Oct. 8, 2014, was corrected Oct. 8, 2014. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the 1B campaign promises, in a recent flier, that it “is the only proposal to lower child care costs for all parents.” It was the 1A campaign that released this flier.

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