Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Take on Preschool Measures for Publicola


Consider attending/viewing a debate on this issue at a Town Hall presented by Seattle Channel, Town Hall Seattle and Seattle CityClub.  It's next Wednesday, the 24th at 7 pm.  It's cable channel 21 (or HD 321).  They will be having polling during the event.  It's free but you have to register.  (I am not on the panel but did a pre-recorded interview with host Brian Callanan that will be shown.)

Register at www.seattlecityclub.org or call (206) 682-7395. Doors open at 6 p.m. with audience instructions at 6:30 p.m. and the live televised program at 7 p.m.

End of update.

My concerns are outlined - for both preschool propositions - at Publicola.   I flesh out those concerns in detail there but broadly:

- did the City and the unions really try to find unity?  Because I believe a joint-measure would have passed easily.  Instead, we have two nearly completely difference measures.  What happens if one side wins?  Will we see complete unity from the other side (for example, if the unions' measure - Prop 1A - wins, will the City fund it?)

- why didn't the City do the groundwork to find out how many preschools there are in Seattle and who they serve?  They admit they don't have any idea in their early documentation.  How do they know where to start if they don't know where the starting line is?

- and, of course, my concerns for Seattle Schools in the City's Prop 1B (as the unions' plan does not include the district).

As for voting, here's how the City Attorney explains it:

City Attorney’s Explanatory Statement
This measure presents voters with two questions. 

The first question is whether either of the two alternative propositions, both of which concern early learning and providers of such services for children, should be adopted. 

The second question is which of the two alternative propositions should be adopted. 

If a majority of voters voting on the first question vote “No,” then neither alternative proposition will be adopted. 

If a majority of voters voting on the first question vote “Yes,” then the alternative proposition receiving the greatest number of votes in the second question will be adopted. 

Voters may vote on the second question regardless of how they voted on the first question. 

So here's the dilemma. If you are like me and don't like either measure, you could simply vote "no" on the first question and call it a day (hoping that a majority of voters do the same and that vote ends the discussion).


What if you worry that a majority of voters might not vote "no" on the first question, so you hedge that bet by voting for the prop you like/is the lesser of two evils.  Which one would you pick?

Because if the first question passes, then, for the second question, whoever gets the most votes - small as that may be - will win.


Anonymous said...

I would vote for the union one because it doesn't involve SPS. No room at the inn.

I plan on voting No and then picking that one because as you say, if you don't pick, you might get stuck with the greater of two evils.


Anonymous said...

No. Sorry. I am not subsidizing 70 percent of preschool tuition via my taxes for families making more than $100K a year. Look at the Publicola graphic. The city even wants us to subsidize 20 percent of the education cost for families making $238K.

And I had to scrape to get payment for full day K, which the state is SUPPOSED to fund.

Take that subsidy for higher income families and put it into family support services for lower income families.

No. No. No. to this plan

"just no"

Melissa Westbrook said...

Just no, I address that point in my piece at Publicola. The City didn't just include all incomes in the plan to be nice - the research shows that low-income kids do a lot better in a mixed income classroom. The City needs middle-income families to get the best bang for the buck.

Question is, will enough middle-class families sign up in all areas of the city to make this viable?

I also addressed the issue of whether the City had truly considered what would help the most - preschool, funding the rest of full-day K or lower class sizes for K-2. I don't think the City even considered other measures (and have not seen any confirmation that they did).

Insider said...

I've heard, from a reliable source, that the city didn't think the preschool initiative would pass...unless middle ($150K?) were subsidized.

Anonymous said...

@ Melissa: Yes, I know you pointed out the city's thinking, but I'm sorry, there are additional ways to attract middle and high income families to all day preschool. Presumably you haven't had a young kid in the preschool area lately. It is extremely hard to find quality, all-day programming for working families. It's a total Gold Rush, starting at birth, to find and procure something.

Middle income families will participate in safe, quality preschool programs without the ridiculous subsidy proposed by Murray.

And giving a 40 percent subsidy to households making $190K a year??!?!?!?! Cmon. That's not middle class. That's flat out ludicrous.

When the K-12 system stops making me spend $150 a year per kid for school supplies, come ask for my tax dollars for rich family subsidies.

"just no"

Andrea Leigh Ptak said...

Seriously, Insider? Seattle passes everything related to education regardless of how middle-income families are affected (and, BTW, I don't consider $150,000 middle-income). Why would the City believe this wouldn't pass like everything else?

I'll be voting NO as I have on at least a few education-related issues (usually at Melissa's suggestion). I will, as always, be in the minority.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Just no, I absolutely agree.

Anonymous said...

So the city already spends about $61 million on pre-school, but we don't really know on what? What exactly are they spending that money on? Is it working? Can it be improved? Can whatever they are doing be expanded? (Rhetorical questions here, not being strident at Melissa). And the city's prop is now asking for another $58 million? To build something totally new and different from scratch? And only a demonstration phase at that.

To me, the fact that the city is not building on something it has already started, but is looking to create some new thing, with a top heavy administration, creating its own curriculum, casting out Waldorf and Montessori, building a huge database to track, says only one thing: This is an education reform experiment in the making.

And does anyone find it odd that the initiative says it its goal is to serve 2,000 students by 2018 and that in 20 years it will serve all eligible children? What kind of initiative/project gets 20 years to ramp up? I work in government, and we don't even get that kind of time ;-).


Melissa Westbrook said...

FedMom, good questions and comments.

kellie said...

This whole process is so frustrating. We are about to have a massive high school capacity issue in the very near future. They had projected an increase of 336 students for high school this year, and by all reports most high schools had a greater than expected number of students.

If a fraction of this energy was being spent on K-12 capacity, the city would be heroes.

Melissa Westbrook said...

If the City, the Gates Foundation, the Alliance for Education actually asked the district what would help, THAT would help. It's their money but funding what others believe should be done is not really helping the district.

More on Kellie's concern (and it should be visible - she shouldn't be the canary in the coalmine). I worry that the district is not reading the enrollment tea leaves (again) and we will face another huge crisis that could have been mitigated.

Anonymous said...

Right now the City is paying for Step Ahead. It is similar to ECEAP (state funded), but for families with gross income up to $5,964 per month for a family of 4. ECEAP serves families living in poverty. Step Ahead was formed to help families making more than the federal poverty rate but can't afford preschool because Seattle's cost of living is so high.
Seattle's ECEAP & Step Ahead preschools are excellent, esp ECEAP which also provide family support. The city should expand those instead of starting a new program. The benefits of preschools do not last if there is no family support services.


Disgusted said...

I also question the city's definition of "middle" income.

I'm fully expecting Gates to make massive campaign contributions.

Disgusted said...


I am serious. There is a psychology around whether or not policies will pass and policy makers know this.

I would have supported preschool for low income families, but not the city's present structure.

That said, I also think the city's is marketing a Cadillac version of preschool and I'm not interested in funding an enormous administration, enormous administrative salaries, enormous research project (from Gates) and a proposal which aims to stick the city's nose under the K-5 tent. I also have to question entities that will profit from the city's proposal.

IMHO the city has acted poorly. They should have been transparent with the board and included them in planning. You know what they say about Karma and I am looking directly at Holly Miller and Tim Burgess.

I also think the city will place their friends in these highly paid executive positions. No thanks.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Disgusted, I could not have said it better. I find that often these people exist in an echo chamber (of their own making) and don't realize until it is too late, that miscalculated. Badly.

See Suzanne Dale Estey, Peter Maier and Steve Sundquist.

Anonymous said...

From what I'm hearing on the ground, everyone with kids actually in school is anti-preschool measures. People are telling me that it subsidizes too high up the income, and they're also telling me that they want free kindergarten first, so they're voting no. Those two issues resonate.

But there are all those other people in this city who are pro-education, but don't have kids in school - too young or too old - and they don't know these details, so I'm afraid they'll pass the plan.

Signed: First No

Anonymous said...

Folks, let your neighbors with no kids know that you're not voting for the preschool measure. It will no doubt make a difference. It will absolve them of guilt if they see parents within the public system, parents with traditional Seattle liberal and pro-education attitudes, reject this measure.

My social circle have universally been surprised I'm not voting yes. When I explain the lack of K-12 resources including space, the dysfunctional city/SPS relationship and the ridiculous income subsidy levels, they all nod.

Anti-this measure does not mean anti-preschool. This stinker needs to go down. It will only do so if the word gets out.


Melissa Westbrook said...

DW, great point.

No one is against preschool. But let's do it in a unified way that we can all back.

Greenwoody said...

Subsidizing child care even for the upper middle class is a solidly progressive position - the left of center parties in Canada, UK, and other similar countries are all for it. And rightly so. I don't object to that aspect of Prop 1B, it's one of the only things in its favor.

Everything else about it is awful. It's a trojan horse for the Gates Foundation and the City of Seattle to seize control of SPS - not overtly, but more subtly. They want to use city funding to dictate curriculum, teacher evaluation, hiring and firing, and use of space.

The fact that the city is planning to raid SPS space to house these pre-k classes, when SPS doesn't even have enough space for K-12 kids, is another huge problem.

My guess is they want to use this as a wedge to force the co-location of charter schools at SPS buildings. Look at NYC to see how explosive that policy has been.

So while I'm perfectly fine with subsidizing a wide range of incomes, I'm not OK with the rest of Prop 1B. We need to organize against it now, because it's easy for Seattle voters to understandably want to do good things for kids. Prop 1B does good things for "education reformers" and nothing good for Seattle's kids.

Disgusted said...

'Everything else about it is awful. It's a trojan horse for the Gates Foundation and the City of Seattle to seize control of SPS - not overtly, but more subtly. They want to use city funding to dictate curriculum, teacher evaluation, hiring and firing, and use of space."

Greenwoody is 100% correct. The city, due to the Family and Ed. Levy, dictates testing policies. Some board members wanted to get rid of MAP K-2, but the district was tied to the city and their "measurable" outcomes.

The city's plan also includes bringing principals into city offices and we know the city's divide and conquer, and pit staff against district/board.

Let's watch the funding for the campaign. My guess: Massive influx of dollars from Gates.

No thanks.

mirmac1 said...

Watch Carr's comments. She says the PreK work session was soooo informative and she's asked staff to put together a resolution for the board to say "we're onboard" this crazy train. Seems the city suits were convincing that SPS can control any and all costs to the district. In what reality?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm with Mia (who commented elsewhere) - that "resolution" would have to be VERY vague because anything that looks like it supports either side would be campaigning.

That would be an exceedingly bad move on the Board's part.

Anonymous said...

Suggest if any of you here has any pull @SLOG, write a piece to post. Many, many voters read the SLOG cheat list to help them vote. Mind you, mayoral & city politics and the 4th estate are pretty intertwined in this town even if that estate is the Stranger.

Curious where SEA position is in all of this? It's an awkward spot in some ways, but they can show to the fickle public SEA isn't just about pay, pension, and benefits by supporting funding all day K first for starters.


mirmac1 said...


Here's the Times contribution on Seattle's Burgess pipe dream:

they say "I don't HAVE to walk in a line anywhere" I means that's just part of being in a school!

Anonymous said...

@mirmac1 -Thanks for the link to the Ed Lab piece. Not sure why the Times thinks that video is good way to sell the preschool ballot measure. The notion of 3 and 4 yr olds being "in school" for 6 hours a day boggles the mind. One of my kids still napped at age 3! It seems to me that unstructured play is so important to 3 and 4 yrs olds. What about digging in the dirt, finding worms, turning in circles until they fall down, bouncing a ball back and forth (cooperative play), and singing at the top of their lungs? My kids did this and preschool and preschool was alot of the above. Nope it is academics all the time and learning to stand in line. I am sick and voting NO.


syd said...

I guess I am alone here.

If we don't start somewhere, then how can we move forward? I don't expect the first iteration to be perfect.

I am going to address what I see mentioned most often as the biggest problem - subsidizing the costs for almost everyone.

I think we can all agree that we think children living in poverty need the most help. However, in this country, when funding is only provided for people living in poverty, there are all sorts of value judgements that risk defunding initiatives.

Head Start? Hugely successful outcomes. But constantly on the chopping block. Food programs for the poor? Same thing. Public school? I would argue the same thing is happening. As more "middle class" parents opt out, placing their children in "independent schools," the easier it is to defund public schools. The very people who would argue most vehemently for increased funding of public schools are the ones fleeing public schools. That is true even in cities where most people support the idea of public schools...like our own city of Seattle.

Why was ending "welfare as we know it" successful when "privatizing social security" has not? I think it is because everyone has a stake.

Children living in poverty have no voice. They need our voices.

Anonymous said...

I don't expect it to be perfect and also believe that affordable preschool/daycare should be available to those families that want it and especially those children that need it. But the current proposal is school for 3 & 4 yr olds not preschool, complete with testing and tracking. I'm not sure if this is appropriate for 3&4yrs olds. The proposal does not build on what is already out there, but creates something entirely new. I will support a preschool/daycare initiative -something that builds on what we have and fleshes out the details a bit more -like transportation, food services, after the 6 hours of school where do the kids go, and yes acceptable curriculum.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Syd, first, Seattle taxpayers ARE supporting preschool via the Families and Education levy at about $61M.

What's weird is that the City is employing a preschool expert who works for a company that is revamping Head Start in Philadelphia. Why not do that here?

And what about the idea of REALLY considering the best bang for the buck?

Is it preschool for all?

Or what about fully funding kindergarten? Would shoring that up do more for those kids?

Or what about smaller class sizes for K-2?

I want a plan that both the union and the City support AND have planned together. I don't trust a plan that only one side supports.