Sunday, August 24, 2014

Seattle Preschool - Time to Start Thinking about Your Vote

 Update:  Here's an event to talk about this issue from the League of Women Voters/King County:

Help lay a foundation of understanding for the continuing public discourse on early learning and the role of public policy. Participate in the LWVS-KC conversation on September 4 with panelists representing the Puget Sound Educational Service District, University of Washington, and Thrive by Five. Where are we? Where do we want to go? How do we get there?

Event Date & Time:
Thu, Sep 4 - 7:00 PM
Seattle First Baptist Church
1111 Harvard Ave, Seattle
end of update

We're seeing a ramping up of the start of campaigns for both preschool measures.  Sort of.

I would put a link to the City's Preschool for All campaign but there is none.  (The PDC reports $36K being spent but only $150 in donations. It's hard to know what to make of a campaign that has no website.)  When you put "Seattle Preschool for All" into Google, the first hit you get is to..Teachers United who, of course, supports this measure.  Here's the City Council's Preschool for All webpage.

At some point, there has to be a separate campaign for Preschool for All because there can't be one through the City or City Council.

As for the other preschool initiative, Yes for Early Success (YES), they do have a website.  I feel that this initiative is geared towards having better prepared and better paid preschool teachers (no matter where they teach)  rather than the City's better prepared/better paid preschool teachers coupled with the creation of a huge number of preschools for the City to oversee and City provided curriculum and services.  

The union group is appealing a lower court ruling that puts the two initiatives squarely against each other.  They want voters to be able to vote in BOTH.  (You can vote to not support both initiatives OR vote for one or the other but NOT both.  I think this voting issue will be very confusing to voters.)  

I'll do a later thread on both initiatives but at this point I can say two things:

- I think they are doing different things and it would be costly to pass both.  
- I'm not sure either one of them (especially the City's) is the best way to approach this idea.  Just like nearly everything in public education, it's not the question "Would providing quality preschool to more kids be a good idea?"  It's a question of the devil being in the details.

I believe the City's proposal leaves too many unanswered questions and I'm not willing to just vote in a pot of money especially when so much seems to depend on this "partnership" with Seattle Schools. I think the union's may be too narrow a focus.

I welcome any and all input on this issue. Telling me it's a "social justice" issue is not going to blind me to examining the initiatives fully and I'll just venture that it's not wrong to vote no on an important issue if what is being offered is not the right way to get there.  


WTH said...

"At some point, there has to be a separate campaign for Preschool for All because there can't be one through the City or City Council."

Melissa, Ed Murray's deputy is promoting preschool for all in atleast one legislative district meeting. Does this constitute a violtion?

It should also be noted that I've seen literature promoting the city's preschool initiative, but NO campaign is listed.

Transparency Please said...

What is going on down there at City Hall?

"Whatever was in those memos was strategically leaked and used to promote the city's preschool measure at the expense of I-107, charges the union campaign, and they'd like the opportunity to refute these analyses. The problem: When Yes for Early Success requested to see the city's paperwork, the city refused."

Melissa Westbrook said...

WTH, if you forward me the minutes of that meeting and/or photos/scans of that literature, I would appreciate that.

DrKate said...

I just participated in a phone survey on this issue. Several of the questions were confusingly long and you had to chose which you would support (107A vs 107B) even if you wanted neither.

Bob said...

My Vote was. No Seattle Public schools can't even fund its existing schools

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, they called me and when I refused to tell them how often I used a land line versus cell, they hung up.

They called it the "childcare proposition."

Transparency Please said...

It is interesting to note that the Yes for Success (I 107)- or the union backed initiative- is funded at $495K.

The city plan, which is of enormous importance to the city, is funded at $150.

I predict that the city's plan will be funded at $1M or more. I predict that Bill Gates and Seattle's technology/business community will support the city's plan.


Catherine said...

Does anyone know, if I vote No, I don't want either, and fail to pick one of the lousy options being presented, does that invalidate my vote on the No?

Anonymous said...

Why can't they just put the money into expanding Head Start?

-- Ivan Weiss

Melissa Westbrook said...

Catherine, I believe you must pick one. I'll check with King County Elections.

Ivan, they don't want to put the money into Head Start. There is data/perception that Head Start has uneven quality. Now more money might fix that unevenness but that taint is out there.

As well, one of the consultants the City has works for a for-profit company that is now trying to be the Head Start management company. There's money to be made off of managing preschool.

Po3 said...

What is has never been made clear is how this program will work.

Will they use the SPS curriculum revised for pre-k, or will it be an arts-rich focused curriculum? Or...?

How many pre-k students assigned to a class? 15, 20, 30?

How do schools no operate with what is essentially an additional grade added to them? Won't they need to share the gym, playground, bathrooms?

Are there any schools in the district with the capacity to take on Pre-K classrooms?

Do principals oversee Pre-K in their building?

I think the city would have been better off piloting this program somewhere first for a year, let parents get a sense of how this works.

For me to vote for Universal Pre-K with no understanding of the nuts and bolts of what I am voting for earns a no vote from me.

I just hope I can decipher the ballot to ensure I vote no!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Po3, the City says it will work with SPS but considering this is a city-wide effort, it is unlikely the curriculum will totally match SPS. (That said, in other states they want alignment with Common Core.)

Their maximum class size would be 20, with a ratio of 1 adult to 10 kids.

The huge issue with bringing in all these preschools -to schools previously without them - is exactly the issues you raise. Preschools have to have their OWN bathrooms and playground. Who is going to pay for that and where will the room at our overcrowded schools come from?

No, the principals might have input but will not be overseeing the program in their school.

What would be better is to spend the money making Head Start better.

Studies make clear that preschool can be a boon to disadvantaged kids. But they don't tell us whether preschool helps more than, say, full-day kindergarten, or smaller class sizes, or family literacy classes. So, is this the right investment of the dollars? Hard to say.

The City resolution admits that because of various factors (Section 3): they don’t know how many 3-4 year olds are enrolled in child care/preschool, public or private, how many are not, and what types of child care/preschools there are?

It would seem that this kind of info would be something you would want to know BEFORE you put forth a proposition to voters. What exactly are we voting on and what children will it cover? I would favor doing this research FIRST and THEN designing a program and presenting it to voters. Not bundling the two because, in the end, you are really voting for a pot of money with vague parameters for spending.

So I think you have it right, Po3. We need to know what we are talking about before we vote in a pot of money.

As I see it now, there are too many decisions/agreements that will happen AFTER the vote.

Transparency Please said...


You might want to research Ascelero. Ascelero is a for-profit group that is restructuring Head Start.

Elen Frede is the VP of Ascelero and she is one of the individuals leading the city's program.

The city claims their program will serve 2000 students, and the levy will generate $58M for the prek program. Per the city, the cost per student will be $10K. Do the math...2000 students @$10K/ea does not equal $58M.

It should also be noted that there is a Teach for America has gotten into preschools. While I don't think TfA is a bad idea for prek, I have to consider the Prek-3 alignment of the city's proposal and wonder about the implications.

Isn't Stritikus working with the Gates Foundation to create a Prek3 college path?

Transparency Please said...

It is interesting to note that the Burgess/Murray's proposal is backed by Bill Gates and Arne Duncan. The union went to the streets and collected tens of thousands of dollars to get on the ballot.

It is also interesting to note the cost differences in the union's plan...per the union and city. The city is claiming that the union's plan is a lot more expensive than union claim. However, the city will not release the figures to be analyzed. I have to call BS on that one.

Anonymous said...

Here are a couple of issues to consider: (1) Supporters of expanded preschool options and opportunities for low-income 3- and4-year-olds use the statistic that for every $1 spent on quality preschool for these children, $7-10 is saved in future school supports, social service supports, etc. and that graduation rates, grades, outcomes, etc. increase. What is not often shared is that any gains made by these children disappear by 3rd grade if continued academic and social service supports are not providing through their elementary years. So, those savings are not really savings at all.

(2) The union-backed measure would require that preschools charge families no more than 10% of their monthly income on preschool tuition and that all preschool employees be paid a minimum wage of at least $15 immediately. I can assure you that teacher aides, etc. are not being paid $15 per hour now. So, in essence, preschool revenue will go down while expenses will rise. What would be the net result: Many preschools will close --- decreasing the number of quality preschools in the city --- or preschools will have to cut costs elsewhere --- thus, affecting the quality of preschool programs.

Neither of these measures will significantly positively affect the preschool options and opportunities for our city's 3- and 4-year-olds.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

Please, can someone tell me how I vote NO ( that's No, period) to preschool?

If the city was doing this, and leaving SPS out of it, and, they had an actual PLAN, with full details, costs, facilities specified, and implementation, I would vote yes.

But, this is so screwed up, is causing problems, and is only going to creat intense problems for SPS if it passes -- as we have no leadership.

How does one vote NO to both?

--no thanks

Transparency Please said...

The SPS board has not signed a Partnership Agreement with the city, yet. I understand the board will hear about the city's proposal Sept. 10th. Then, they will decide what they will and will not support.

It is interesting to note that the city has NO Expuslsion policy for preschoolers. Expelling preschoolers (!??). It turns out that there is research that indicates toddlers experience behavioral issues when preschool is extended beyond 6 hrs. per day. I suspect that is why the city's plan is limiting preschool/ childcare to 6 hrs. per day. Make NO mistake: the city's proposal is Common Core for preschool aged children and is aligned to K-3. The city's proposal is also participating in educataional research and students will be tracked.

There is one study that indicates students do well, throughout their lives with preschool, but, the study was conducted using a very small amount of students. There have been papers written that it is not financially feasible to expand this particular program.

Either way...I'm sure there are dualing studies.

As I understand it, voters will be asked whether or not they support a preschool proposal and individuals would have the ability to vote NO. If an individual supports preschool..then, they will have an opportunity to choose between the union and city proposal.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I will find out about the vote from KC Elections.

My understanding is that you can vote no on the first question but whoever gets the majority vote between the two, will win.

So there will be a winner. (I could be wrong, though.)

Transparency Please said...

If this initiative passes, and I think it will....the city plans on incorporating preschool into the next levy until 2014.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, Transparency Please, I learned that is true.

You have to wonder two things:

1) if the City is asking for a renewal of the F&E levy at the same time as the Preschool measure, what does that mean for passing actual school levies? Is that competition?

2) How much more of the F&E levy will be diverted to preschool? That is also a possibility that has been discussed.

Transparency Please said...


Page 1 indicates that 26% of the Family and Ed. Levy is spent on early learning.

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