Seattle voters OK preschool measure
Seattle voters approved a property-tax levy to pay for city-subsidized preschool, rejecting a competing, union-backed measure.
Seattle Times staff reporter
A Seattle ballot measure raising property taxes to pay for city-subsidized preschool spanked an alternative proposal Tuesday night.
Seattle Proposition No. 1B surged ahead with 67 percent approval in the first-day vote count.
Backed by the city’s elected officials, 1B will authorize a $58 million property-tax levy to fund a four-year pilot program of preschool subsidized on a sliding scale, while setting academic standards and raising preschool teacher pay.
Falling far behind was Seattle Proposition No. 1A, supported by a pair of labor unions and some child-care workers.
1A would have established a $15 minimum wage for child-care workers, required training and certification via a public-private institute, and made it city policy that families should not spend more than 10 percent of their income on child care.
Mayor Ed Murray called the results a “huge win for Seattle’s kids and Seattle’s future” and said the margin of victory surprised him.
“It makes us a more equitable city,” he said, standing outside a party on Capitol Hill. “It’s an opportunity to actually do something about the dramatic differences in education outcomes between children of color and Caucasian children, poor children and children who come from wealthier families.”
The levy will cost the owner of a Seattle home valued at $400,000 about $43 a year, according to the city.
In a potentially confusing arrangement, voters were asked a pair of questions, the first of which was: “Should either of these measures be enacted into law?”
The results Tuesday night showed about 65 percent of voters choosing “yes.”
The second question was: “Regardless of whether you voted yes or no above, if one of these measures is enacted, which should it be?”
There were 110,146 Seattle ballots counted Tuesday night, with more left to tally.
The measures wound up locking horns on the ballot after city officials and a pair of unions representing child-care workers couldn’t come to terms on a single plan.
Murray and City Council President Tim Burgess said SEIU 925 and the American Federation of Teachers-Washington, which represent about 1,500 Seattle child-care workers, demanded too much control.
They wanted all child-care workers, including preschool teachers, to obtain training and certification via a union-led institute, according to Murray and Burgess.
An SEIU 925 representative said negotiations broke down because city officials refused to broaden the scope.
The unions collected nearly 22,000 signatures to put their own proposal on the ballot. The council decided that voters would be asked to choose between the two.
“We are committed to working with City Hall to implement whichever proposal prevails in the next few days,” Karen Hart, president of SEIU 925, said in a statement for the 1A campaign.
In the lead-up to the election, the 1A campaign warned voters that 1B would serve too few children and leave behind some existing preschools and teachers. The 1B campaign ripped 1A for being unfunded.
The 1A campaign said its measure would require just $3 million in immediate, mandated spending, while the 1B campaign claimed 1A would force the city to cough up as much as $100 million a year and cut other services.
The 1A campaign, bankrolled almost exclusively by the two unions, raised more than $1.5 million for commercials, mailers and signs.
The 1B campaign drew more than $1.2 million, thanks to large contributions from wealthy corporate titans, their relatives and their companies, like Amazon and Microsoft.
The 1A campaign called some of those donors charter-school supporters and Republicans in an attempt to turn liberal voters against 1B, while the 1B campaign touted endorsements from popular public figures like former Mayor Norm Rice.
Burgess said he was “stunned” by the vote count.
“We had no idea we were going to win by this much,” he said. “It was a hard campaign and you never know. But I think the voters of Seattle are really smart.”
Daniel Beekman: 206-464-2164 or firstname.lastname@example.org