Inside Capitol Hill’s Miller Annex Preschool and with a focus on jobs, income, and affordability, Mayor Jenny Durkan Wednesday made her first pitch to Seattle citizens for a new education levy her office says will cost typical households just under $21 a month — about $7 more than they have been paying to help pay for the Seattle Public Schools system and its some 53,000 students at more than 100 schools.
“The increase comes from us doing the two things that we know are vital. Increasing pre-school so that more kids come to school ready to learn. And giving kids that opportunity to go to college,” the mayor said Wednesday in a speech focused on the economy as much as it was on learning.
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“We will be going to the ballot not just to renew our family and education levy and our preschool levy, but to put them together in a holistic package that looks at the continuum of our children to make sure that they have the opportunity for any job in the city of Seattle,” Durkan said, calling her new $636 million spending plan “a school to opportunity pipeline.”
The city’s children growing up and getting “good paying jobs” is a driver in what will “make Seattle affordable,” Durkan said Wednesday.
Under the plan, Seattle would replace two expiring levies with a new tax that would raise around $230 million for kindergarten through high schools to buttress state funding, $363 million for Seattle’s growing preschool programs, and $44 million for Durkan’s Seattle Promise program under which she hopes to make college universal for city’s students by offering two years of free tuition to eligible seniors. Durkan also said money from the levy will be specifically targeted to help homeless students and that this will be the first levy that allows breaks for low income, veteran, and disabled households under a new state law.
The full details of Durkan’s proposal are posted here (PDF). The proposal is planned to be on the November ballot.
While Seattle’s citizens have been supporters of past education levies, under the McCleary decision, King County is already digesting a a court-mandated property tax increase of 17% to increase state public school funding.
Durkan’s plan’s focus on jobs and older students might also be a problem. “I think the mayor’s hope is that those elementary school investments are going to be offset by state funding,” Seattle City Council member Rob Johnson told KUOW. “I can tell you that some of the PTSA parents I talk to have a lot of concerns that that hope will not turn into reality.” The council is now set to begin its process of shaping the levy proposal.
Wednesday’s launch of the new levy plan came inside the newly opened Miller Annex Preschool on the community center campus shared by Meany Middle School.