Monday, October 27, 2014

On the Campaign Trail with 1A and 1B

Update: well, will you look at that?  On the same day, Publicola and The Stranger choose to highlight one campaign issue.  And it's their support for 1B.  Hmmm.

End of update.

After several forums (most of which I was invited to), I've learned a lot about the two campaigns for childcare/preschool, 1A and 1B.

Here's my vote:

Vote NO on the first question (and your conscience on the second one but I'm voting for 1A because I believe that, overall, it will serve more low-income children, faster, than 1B.  That's where I want my tax dollars going.)

That will get the City Council and the unions back to the table to deliver one early learning proposition they both agree on.

  • Just nice people.  I mean, you'd hope so because most of them take care of children all day.
  • They have a couple of good/great speakers but most of those nice people? Not so good at communicating what their measure would do and why it's a better bang for the buck than 1B.  (I personally think that voters have a right to consider the money end of any item on the ballot.)  
  • Talk about being a nice guy (or maybe it's a sneaky strategy); 1A sent out a 4-page election book, "An Election Guide for Seattle Voters on Early Learning and Childcare."  (They brilliantly left out the word "preschool" everywhere in it.)  
It contrasts the two "childcare propositions" in what appears to be an apples-to-apples comparison.  But, yes this is an election so 1B comes off as the one that spends a lot of money on administration and will only serve under 7% of Seattle kids under the age of five.  (I mean those two things are true but nothing bad is said about 1A.)

But turn to the back page and they have what the ballot looks like and they have the Yes oval blackened out for the first question and leave the second question - which one?" blank, saying "You decide!"  Gotta say, a bit risky but much more generous than 1B would ever be.

  • In an odd way, 1B treats 1A like with the same thought pattern as how the average American feels: people hate Congress but like their representative. 1B says how the unions are only concerned with their own self-interest (that comes from Councilman Burgess) but he likes caregivers.  Apparently, he misses the connection between unions and their members.
  • The cry from 1B is, "Where's the money for 1A?" 
1A's contention is that the City can find the money to enact the mandates for 1A from spending that the City is already making for the Office of Education to become the Department of Education.  As well, it appears there is something of an unknown fund in the Families&Ed levy that is about $30M.  Whatever the City may be holding that fund for, if 1A passes, the City might have to rethink that money.
  •  I only encountered men speakers for 1B and two were/are elected officials.  There's the head of the 1B campaign, Sandeep Kaushik.  He's a fast talker and a even longer talker.  He also started Publicola which endorsed 1B.  He also worked at The Stranger which endorsed 1B.  
Next, there's Councilman Burgess who uses his gravitas and office to great effect.  He also likes to speak for a long time during Q&A.  (He also tried to get me off a panel one night saying to the moderator before the event, "It's not usual for people like her to be here."  It was one of those "you know I can hear you talking" episodes.  I did ask him if he was okay with democracy but he got up and left the table.) 

Last is my favorite, Michael DeBell, who just doesn't know how NOT to be a gentleman.  He wasn't as prepped at the other two so he got some things wrong but he was quietly unyielding in his belief in 1B.  (He, like Peter Maier and Steve Sundquist, have given large sums of money to 1B.  Directors Martin-Morris and Carr gave token amounts.) 

In the "C'mon" section:

- "Where's the money for 1A?" Gee, 1B, your prop was created by a city entity that can put forth levies.  That's where your money would come from, taxes.  Just like where 1A's money would come from but you get to create your own revenue stream.

- 1B claims that the unions would benefit from 1A because, well, people would be working and earning more money because of it.  Yes, and the YMCA, Boys and Girls clubs, etc. that endorsed 1B?  They will be working and employing more people with the passage of 1B.

Everyone involved in childcare/early learning will be affected by passage of one of these.  And some of those people will get more business/expand their business and yes, make money.

- How did we get to this place with two propositions that have very little in common on the same place on the ballot?  To be clear, the City could have taken their preschool plan and sent it to a vote of the Council as an ordinance.  I believe it would have passed and they have been planning their preschools right now.  But, of course, where would they get the money?

Meanwhile, the unions had been working on their plan and gone out and got the signatures needed to get it on the ballot.  They had thought they would be on the there alone.

They "tried" to negotiate but that didn't work.  Neither side agrees on what tripped it up but I say both are wrong to have walked away.

Because now what do we voters get?  Confusion and division when we should have clarity and unity.  Thanks a lot, governance and labor. 

Final Thoughts
  • I'm hearing that those ballots are coming in slowly.  Let's get with the system and get the vote out.  It's the democratic thing to do.
  • I urge you to consider voting NO on the first question.  These are vague and confusing propositions.  Honestly, that is the number one thing that comes across when people ask questions.  The voters are completely befuddled and frankly, a bit irritated.  They know they are not stupid people but somehow this whole thing is not computing to them.  (The other question that came up at nearly every forum?  "Can't we vote for both?"  No, you can't.


Anonymous said...

This seems like big business for a lot of providers and administrators with inconclusive results. Why hasn't 48 years of Headstart with wrap around services been a success ?
Maybe the money spent doesn't make it all the way to the kids.
1B could do more harm and maybe IMHO over regulate some good caregivers/preschools out of business.


Anonymous said...

PSP, preschools do not have to participate in 1B if it passes. ALL preschools in the city will have to comply with 1A if it passes.

And while I agree with Melissa that both programs will affect all preschools in some way, 1A will have a direct and significant effect on all preschools in the city and not always in a positive manner.

1B might cause some preschools that choose not to participate to potentially lose families to subsidized city-funded preschools and state DEL might be stretched thin in licensing and monitoring new 1B preschools but those are the only effects I can think of on private preschools that choose not to participate in the city program if 1B passes.

I voted NO on the first question and did not vote for either of the propositions --- i.e., I did not hedge my bet. I hope they both fail.

--- swk

Anonymous said...

SWK,My vote was the same as yours. I think Headstart provides a safe and enriching environment as well as other preschool programs. Maybe the measure of success should be if the kids love to attend, learn, explore, and gain valuable social skills. I see the federal push as a narrow and data tracked program that can deaden the love of learning. I am all for supporting students in need but not all students. What if the licensing requirements change to a prescribed programs ?


Anonymous said...

PSP - I've noticed that pretty much all your anti-headstart articles have come from anti-government/anti-public education foundations and think tanks. Not sure if that is intentional or not, but here's some counterpoint.

Most scholarly articles have come to the agreement that Head Start does have an impact. Where the issue arises is how long-lasting that impact is and what it is you are trying to measure for success (just test scores?). For white kids, much more of a long lasting impact than for African-American kids.

David Deming - long term study

Head Start from Origins to Imapact

Early Head Start

Is Head Start perfect? No way. Does it help? Most unbiased research says yes - though not all effects are easily measured (socio-emotional, etc.).

I used to volunteer in several Kindergarten classrooms in the Hilltop area of Tacoma. I was always present for those first few days/weeks of school. There was an obvious difference between kids who attended preschool (usually Head Start given the economic issues in that neighborhood)) and those who did not. That is where I first really became aware of the importance of early childhood programs in areas of severe poverty. It's one thing to read about it and say yes, that makes sense, but it's quite another to sit in a classroom with 23 Kindergarteners and clearly see the ones who attended preschool and those who did not. Fine motor skills, ability to share, helping each other, problem solving, taking turns, letter recognition, shape recognition, number recognition, understanding directions (receptive language), awareness of print, and enjoyment of read-alouds/ability to sit and listen and follow along.

As we've seen with public schools - what's the best way to get rid of them? Discredit them, call into question their results, set them up to fail, replace them with for-profit charters. Done.
New target? Head Start/preschool. Look at Acelero, KIPP, TFA - all in the business of profiting off kids, now turning their (business model) attention to preschoolers.


Anonymous said...

Thanks CT for a commons sense and documented response. Honestly, it is irrational to think that placing at-risk kids in a positive social environment doesn't help them. They may not become rocket scientists (but they might...), it does get them out of dysfunctional homes and hopefully out from in front of the TV. And everything I've read supports any sort of basic and positive intervention. I imagine head start programs are not all equal but something is better than nothing.

Currently watching the Microsoft panel sponsored by the Seattle Times and it occurs to me that one reason for the carrot of "free preschool" is to get voters to vote for it. That may be the only purpose in including that provision. Just to get that otherwise indifferent voter to think that maybe he/she will benefit from it.

I think a minority of voters read as carefully and accurately as do the people on this blog. 1B is likely to pass. Can I be truthful? As a single property owner, real estate taxes are starting to hurt. As Seattle continues to grow and renters begin to multiply, we property owners will have to be quite wealthy to continue to own our homes.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Watching, you are so certain that all low-income children come from "dysfunctional homes" where they are parked in front of the tv. What is your data on that? Being poor doesn't make you a bad parent.

What the City is creating probably will be average to better than no preschool. No one is saying "no preschool" and, in fact, the City (via our taxes) is paying $61M over 7 years for preschool services.

1B "likely" to pass? As someone out on the campaign beat, I can say...I don't believe anyone can read the tea leaves and say that. I see a LOT of people very confused and uneasy about what would be best.

Anonymous said...

Watching said "at-risk", not low income.

Sadly, however, kids from low income families are vulnerable to dysfunction as the very result of the stresses of poverty, as research from readers from this blog have documented.

The pres-school idea, like so many others in this society, wants to deal with effects and not causes.

--enough already

Anonymous said...


Not intentional at all but provided information on many studies used by both sides and fairly neutral IMHO. I also volunteered in the elementary classrooms, community centers, YMCA, and attended 4 years of Co-op preschool with my child. There was also a Headstart classroom next to the Co-op classroom. I am just a parent that would rather see more slots and improvement in Headstart before this new "Preschool for all". I guess my point was about all the years and billions of dollars spent, maybe we should audit how the dollars have been used or measure success differently.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

CT, numerous studies, and not just those from libertarian organizations, have shown very few if any long-term benefits of Head Start. While low-income children may gain immediate benefits as a result of participation in high-quality Head Start programs, those benefits tend to fade by 3rd or 4th grade --- it's referred to as the "fadeout" and it's well-known even among universal preschool advocates. Many programs serving low-income children are trying to figure out ways to reduce or eliminate the fadeout but NO ONE and no program has been successful.

1B proponents are acting like they have the solution but they're only guessing. There's no evidence from Dr. Barnett, Dr. Frede, or BERK or anyone else that any program has ever successfully addressed the fadeout to show long-term benefits of preschool on low-income children.

--- swk

Melissa Westbrook said...

SWK, yes but 1B says that's because Head Start isn't "high quality" and theirs will be. (Even though they have no curriculum yet.)

You said it far better on this point than I can.

Anonymous said...

Living voters guide presented on Crosscut, tell them how you feel about 1B.


Anonymous said...

Neither 1B nor 1A is going to help is going to help "many" low-income children. 1A isn't going to help any more than what's currently being served if it puts current preschools out of business.

--- swk

dw said...

Is anyone else bothered by the fact that the proponents of both of these initiatives are primarily framing them as "daycare" and only secondarily as "preschool"? At least that's what I'm seeing in my mailings and literature.

Daycare and preschool are NOT the same thing!

Daycare is babysitting while you are at work. The hours depend on your work schedule, not the needs of the child. There may or may not be a formal curriculum, and depending on the age of the child and your family beliefs, that can be just fine, but the motivation for the setting is because the parent needs to work and can't care for the child.

Preschool is where children go to learn. This is regardless of whether the adults needs to work, or whether there is a stay-at-home parent. In fact, I'd guess more kids in "real preschools" have stay-at-home parents because preschools tend to run only during the mornings or into early afternoon. Children who are 2-5 years old are clearly not ready to be learning for a full 6 hour school day, let alone a 9 hour workday. Depending on their age and maturity, they might be ready for an hour or two or three. And a chunk of that is still going to be playing with Play Doh, climbing, building a playhouse, playing make believe, etc., in other words, non-academic exploring and socializing.

There is certainly some overlap between these notions, but make no mistake, they are not the same thing, and the proponents of this set of initiatives want to muddy the water and sell people on whichever one they want or need or believe in. I call foul.

Anonymous said...

Swk - I mentioned the "fade-out" effect in my own posting, just not by that term. I'm quite aware of the research, coupled with my own experiences. There are people like Deming who have made proposals as to how that can be mitigated - including services that continue through 3rd grade - but obviously no one has taken those steps. However, most of the postings from the Heritage foundation and some of the others that were being linked to are all against any type of "government" school, regardless. There are studies out there using longitudinal data (beginning in the 70s) that have found early childhood programs like Head Start have additional positive impacts beyond the academics, but so many people are solely focused on test scores/academic gain, that those other impacts are often ignored. I have, somewhere in my possession, links to at least 3 that were good peer reviewed examples, and at least one of them used exact same data set as HHS and showed how HHS under Leavitt tried to play games with data at one point to discredit Head Start. (Presumably he had yet another profit motive going - maybe online preschool to go with his online "university".) The latter study was treated much as the Sandia Report - which debunked A Nation At Risk - was under Bush 1.


Melissa Westbrook said...

DW, I'm not sure I agree with all your said but I DO agree that these are vague, confusing propositions and that both sides will say anything to get theirs past.

It's wrong but that's what is happening.

dw said...

Melissa, not sure if you're still following here, but do you at least agree that preschool and daycare are not equivalent?

The ramifications of this get complex when you start peeling back the layers, but I think there's a huge difference between parents that want daycare and parents that want quality preschool available to more kids.