Our city can close the academic opportunity gap negatively impacting many of our children. Doing so would help fulfill our belief that every child can learn and reach their full potential, regardless of their neighborhood, income, home languages, or color of their skin.
This harmful, long-present academic opportunity gap is crystal clear at the beginning of kindergarten when, through no fault of their own, more than half of our city’s children show up already behind. It’s clear when children in the third grade can’t read at grade level, a critical predictor of student success over the long-term. It’s clear when middle and high school kids lose interest, drop out, aren’t able to graduate.
Seattle voters have the chance in November’s election to take a bold step toward closing the academic opportunity gap by approving Proposition 1, the city government’s Families, Education, Preschool, and Promise Levy.
Passage of the levy will continue the expansion of the Seattle Preschool Program—rated one of the nation’s highest quality early learning efforts—so that 2,500 of our three- and four-year old children can be served annually.
Providing high-quality preschool is a rock-solid, proven investment and Seattle has clearly demonstrated its ability to deliver. Our littlest learners, their families, and the whole city will benefit as these children prepare to enter kindergarten and receive the strong and fair start they deserve.
Passage of the levy will continue enhanced academic support for K-12 students requiring additional help through targeted math or literacy tutoring and crucial family support services. Because of the services this levy provides, Seattle middle schools lead the state in closing the academic opportunity gap. This levy provides the funds for highly personal, student-focused academic services that go way beyond what our public schools are able to provide.
Passage of the levy will continue the in-school health clinics in our city’s middle and high schools, establish four new clinics, one of which will especially serve LGBTQ youth, and continue mental health screenings in elementary schools. These clinics provide a full range of medical services, vaccinations, and mental health assessments. An independent assessment of the clinics showed that students who use these clinics have better school attendance and improved grade point averages compared to students who don’t.
Passage of the levy also provides resources to support Seattle’s growing homeless student population—4,280 students according to state officials in 2017-2018, which is eight times more students than recorded in 2010. It will also fund access to childcare for families experiencing homelessness.
Finally, passage of the levy will fund Seattle Promise, Mayor Jenny Durkan’s plan to provide two free years at Seattle Colleges for graduates of our public high schools. In the next five years, Washington State will add 750,000 new jobs, most of which will require a post-secondary degree or credential. Yet today, only 31 percent of Washington high school graduates pursue post-secondary credentials. Seattle Promise will help prepare our kids for the jobs of the future.
If approved by voters, the levy will replace two other city government education levies that expire in December and will raise $620 million over the next seven years. The yearly cost to the owner of a median assessed value home in Seattle will be $248, about $20 per month (just $9 per month more than the expiring levies). Since this calculation is based on a median valued home, half of homeowners will pay more, half will pay less. Of course, commercial property owners will also pay if the levy is approved.
We urge you to vote to sustain these vital education investments by approving Proposition 1 and open the doors of opportunity for our children and families. It is an investment that will pay huge dividends as our children grow and become the leaders of our city. It is an investment that directly addresses the education inequities that have persisted for decades. It is an investment that strengthens our commitment to the importance of public education as the city government and Seattle Public Schools work collaboratively to prepare our children for their future and ours.
Tim Burgess served for 10 years at Seattle City Hall as a member of the City Council and as the city’s 55th Mayor. He was the primary architect of the Seattle Preschool Program. Lauren Hipp is Early Learning Campaign Director at MomsRising, an organization where moms and people who love them go to change the world.