Preschool for All Really Means Just That

Below the cut is the latest message from Councilman Tim Burgess about the outcome of the vote on 1A versus 1B.  I am putting it up for a single reason - because so many people believe that this program was aimed at and will give preference to enroll mostly low-income tikes.

It's just not true.  Currently, there is NO mechanism or "bump" to allow low-income students to the head of the line.  Placement of the preschools could very well decide who enrolls and that may very well be low-income students.

But these preschools are open to all so when I hear "we had to do something for these kids," I sigh because that's not the way the measure was written.

I'll pull out the pertinent phrases sans "low-income":
  • Seattle's children
  • best prepare children
  • to encourage economically mixed and culturally diverse classrooms 
  • our children
He also says this which, to the best of my recollection, I have never seen before (and certainly not during the campaign): full day preschool (6 hours per day, 5 days a week) and wrap-around care.  See that last phrase "wrap-around care?"  Going to add a lot of costs to the program.  You would also need to find space that has room for a preschool AND likely already has childcare.

I have no doubt that as charter start to pull dollars from the Families and Education levy so will preschool.  That 25% of the F&E currently going to preschool services will likely get much bigger.  
Thank you voters for choosing the Seattle Preschool Program
Seattle voters had a clear choice on how to benefit the future generations of Seattle. I am very happy they selected the Seattle Preschool Program (Proposition 1B) crafted by Mayor Ed Murray, the City Council, early learning experts, and a wide variety of local stakeholders.

Last week's vote (69% approval of Proposition 1B) means we will take a strong first step toward universal, voluntary, high-quality and affordable preschool for Seattle’s children. It is one of the best investments we can make.

The Seattle Preschool Program is based on extensive research on how to best prepare children for kindergarten and a life of learning. We reviewed the evidence of what works, we visited preschools throughout Seattle, we talked with teachers and parents, and we visited other cities to see how they provide universal preschool. At every step in development of the program, we were keenly committed to a critical principle: Quality. 

Only quality benefits children for a lifetime. Only quality delivers an impressive return on investment for taxpayers. Only quality will enable our city to leverage dollars from the State and federal governments to provide even more preschool options for Seattle families.

This commitment to quality, based on the research and modeled after other successful cities, is embedded throughout the various elements of the Seattle Preschool Program
  • A menu of play-based, research-based curricula
    proven to support age-appropriate learning;
  • Compensation that honors preschool teachers by being in line with the pay of K-12 teachers;
  • Tuition support for teachers to acquire early learning credentials that improve not only the quality of learning for the children but also career pathways for the teachers;
  • Support for teachers including ongoing in-classroom coaching;
  • Full day preschool (6 hours per day, 5 days a week) and wrap-around care;
  • Classrooms with a teacher-to-child ratio of 1:10;
  • Providers earning a good score from Washington’s “Early Achievers” quality rating and improvement system developed by the University of Washington;
  • Program evaluations and feedback from kindergarten teachers to maintain high quality; and
  • A sliding scale of tuition for parents to encourage economically mixed and culturally diverse classrooms which are best for all children.
Committing ourselves to quality not only promotes social justice for early learning, it delivers it. Only by doing what actually works can we close the achievement and opportunity gaps that have persistently and unfairly impacted our children of color.

As a voluntary program for both parents and providers, the Seattle Preschool Program does not divert funding away from existing programs for childcare or preschool. Nor does it require any space from the Seattle School District. The Seattle Preschool Program is an added investment that will benefit more children — up to 2,000 per year by the fourth year.
To maintain quality, we carefully ramp up the enrollment over time. Boston and other jurisdictions that have succeeded in providing quality, universal preschool advised us strongly to go slow to get it right. By Year 4, the program will be providing quality preschool to about 25% of the three- and four–year-olds likely to enroll. This is a bold step for Seattle and I hope other local cities and counties will soon follow.

There will be bumps in the road, but with a carefully crafted program committed to quality and with dedicated funds to do it right, we are on the path to transform lives.

Thanks to the voters, the Seattle Preschool Program will empower children throughout their lives with better education, better health, and better earning potential. It will reduce disparities in our community. 

Put simply, the Seattle Preschool Program will provide our children with a strong and fair start. 

My colleagues and I are deeply grateful that Seattle voters approved this program and have agreed to invest early in our children.
Tim Burgess
City Council President


Po3 said…
Have to say, as a middle class family, where both parents work, I would jump at this program for my 4-year old especially if:

1)We got some tuition assistance
2)The program was in the same school as my other children.

Solves daycare issues and probably saves my family a ton of money.

My bets are that this type of family profile will flood the program.
Po3, I'm sure that's what the City would like (kinda).

They would like it because then the preschools would be in SPS buildings. Except, is there room at your building for a preschool class with its own bathrooms and its own playground? Because those are the requirements.

As well, that "program in same school as other children" raises some interesting questions.

What if there was space in a pre-K program for a child who didn't live in the neighborhood? Naturally, the parents would want that child to continue onto the kindergarten there.

Would the City persuade the district to allow kids in the preschool program to be able to enroll in the school even if it was NOT their neighborhood school?

You would get tuition assistance as the program allows for everyone to get a little help. It would depend on your income.
Anonymous said…
What about the dedicated preschool spaces in Elementary Schools currently occupied by expensive part-day private preschools?

Also, interesting that the programs require their own bathrooms and playgrounds: the SPS preschools for kids with special needs do not have this, and no one ever seemed to care - no one could find regulations for this.

Anonymous said…
@ Melissa

There are some schools (1950's-1960's era?) that have larger classrooms with bathrooms that were designed to be used as KINDERGARTEN classrooms. Also, I believe there are bathrooms in the ed specs for some SpEd classrooms. I would think the SpEd classrooms (with en suite bathrooms) would be safe from "repurposing."

Since not all kindergarten classrooms in SPS have the luxury of having en suite bathrooms, Then I assume there are no policies stating that bathrooms are required for kindergarten classrooms, so I suppose that the kindergarten classrooms could be theoretically be taken from a school's K-5 program and used for preschool classrooms.

This would mean that there would be less space for K-5, which would probably mean more portables and/or larger class sizes (I remember our school having 30 kindergartners/class, and it wasn't pretty).

Though, with the passing of 1351, it would seem as though SPS couldn't go the 30(+) kids per classroom route?

Also, lots of schools have reached their max load of portables.

It should be interesting to see how this all plays out, but the City needs to either find their own space for the preschool classrooms (at community centers, etc...), or pitch in and help procure more capacity for SPS.

- North-end Mom
Anonymous said…
Casey - which elementary schools currently have private preschools? Also, my daughter's special ed preschool did have separate bathrooms, and I suspect most do, although I have no trouble believing that not all do. My daughter's class did not have their own playground, but recesses were scheduled so they weren't out at the same time as the older kids. The playground at the school is handicapped accessible, so it was suitable for the little kids (which I suspect is the main issue with a separate playground - it's about having play structures that are safe for younger children - most of them come with age guidelines).

Mom of 4

Washington State Department of Early Learning for compliance with Washington State code, including minimum square footage per child capacity (inside 35 sq. ft./child, outside 75 sq ft./child). The maximum PreKindergarten class size is 20 children per classroom, regardless of square footage, while maximum class size for school age children is 30. Other components outlined in the specifications are: exits, restrooms, sinks, natural light, and access to play space, proximity to school programs and many safety and security provisions. These spaces are designed to meet the more strict standards for preschools enrolling children under the age of 5 and not yet enrolled in kindergarten.
Linh-Co said…
West Woodland either has or did have a private preschool on the facility.
Anonymous said…
Mom of 4,

Some examples that I found on-line of private preschools in Seattle elementary schools include:

Phinney Neighborhood association operates Whittier Kids at Whittier Elem, for example. They are non profit (but not inexpensive) and their website says that they accept children on DSHS subsidies. They offer childcare before and after.

Nurturing Knowledge at Greenwood Elem, which charges $898/mo. for a 4 hour per day, 5 day per week program (according to their website) This program does not mention tuition assistance. It is often full. No before or after childcare for preschoolers.

Interlaken preschool at Stevens Elementary, is non-profit, "works with DSHS" and it’s website makes it clear that it not first come/first serve for enrollment and states that ”We make every attempt to balance the classroom by age, gender, social and economic diversity given the spaces we have available.”

(IMHO that sounds like a good model in theory)

Those are just ones that I have noticed over the years. I believe there are many more.

As for Sped preschools - I have seen some that are in very nice appropriate facilities and some are definitely not. Yes, they can use the school playground on a space available basis. They are not usually to code for preschool (although the kids love them)

Sacajawea, for example, just put in 2 new sped preschools in portables and the kids have to travel down steep concrete outdoor or indoor steps to access any sort of playground (not not safe) the 2 new preschools at the Old Van Asselt "Early Learning Center" have fenced in playgrounds filled with weeds and buckled concrete. And good intentions.

And Melissa, those codes for preschool never seemed to apply to the school district sped preschools.

I'm curious who in the district has an actual inventory of who occupies each room in our schools currently?

BL said…
According to their respective websites:
Kids Co. operates preschool at John Adams, John Hay, John Muir, and Graham Hill.
Community Day School Association operates preschool at Beacon Hill, Hawthorne, Highland Park, Leschi, Madrona, and Maple.
From our friends at the Gates Foundation:

"SPS coordinates service for 74 PreKindergarten classrooms in our elementary/K-8 schools: three of these classrooms are tuition- free PreKindergarten classrooms at South Shore PreK-8, 13 are SPS Head Start, 26 are SPS Special Education, and 37 are operated by community based organizations such as the YMCA, Community Day School Association and the Associated Recreation Council. It is important to understand that 15 of these classrooms are mixed use, meaning that PreKindergarten programming may take place in half-day format to accommodate before
and after school-age program."
Anonymous said…
I have a kid at Whittier Kids, and I've heard if we were to lose the preschool, then Phinney Center would no longer be able to run the Before and After program either. It would not be economically feasible for them to do so. I wonder if this is the case for most child care centers that share space with elementary schools?

North of 85th.
FOIA Said said…
The 1B campaign did not disclose all the facts to voters i.e. Common Core for Prek.

I received an e-mail from Burgess thanking voters for prek. He said the city would NOT need space within SPS.

SPS's Department of Early Learning, with Charles Wright's blessing, provided BERK all information regarding incoming prek children, current preschool locations etc. Korsmo felt it would be best not to kick out present providers due to concerns of ill will. Just give it time.
FOIA, I think you read that wrong.

He said the measure does not REQUIRE space from SPS.

That's different.
syd said…
"As a voluntary program for both parents and providers, the Seattle Preschool Program does not divert funding away from existing programs for childcare or preschool. Nor does it require any space from the Seattle School District."

Does not require space from Seattle School District.

It sounds like they have something else in mind for space.

A multitude of studies have shown that mixed economic levels improves outcomes for lower socio-economic level children. It sounds like they are planning for that sort of diversity (something SPS lacks in a lot of schools). I really hope middle class parents apply to these programs in droves. It will improve outcomes for the children who need it most.Success will mean expansion of the program so that it could offer space to all children (not that all children have to go - anyone can homeschool).

Syd, I hope you are right.

But I think middle class parents will be hesitant for a couple of reasoning.

What will it look like? Most might not want to be the first ones in the pool. That it will not use time-tested programs like Montessori but is something completely different could be a concern. (That said, the marketing could be great and diffuse that concern.)

The other one is that most people do not send their child to preschool thinking that their child is now starting in the great data gathering system - that is local, state and federal - public education.

If middle class parents know this is part of the deal, I think many will say no.

And I'll just say that I intend to make sure they know because everyone deserves to know the WHOLE story, not just the City's narrative.
Anonymous said…
FOIA Said, there is no such thing as "Common Core for PreK". There are many scary things about the city's preschool plan --- let's not add false fuel to the fire.

--- swk
Yeah, SWK, I agree. There may be some alignment but truth to fact, there is not CC for preschool.
Anonymous said…
I hear quite a bit about what people do not want, but not so much about what they do want.

I'm wondering what would you like your child, all children, to get out of preschool?

Regardless of HOW a particular preschool might be structured, what abilities/behaviors/skills do you think will give children a solid foundation to participate successfully in Kindergarten?

Just Curious
Anonymous said…
I think a lot of middle class parents would prioritize free or significantly reduced cost over paying for a specific curriculum, even if they worry a bit that it isn't developmentally appropriate. Especially if there is decent wrap-around care for working parents and if preschool were located at public school - to only do one drop off/pick up - fantastic! I don't think most will worry that much about the data collection. While we are planning to opt out of as much as makes sense (most? all), what's another year or two of information really?

That said there are still many things that make no sense to me. Most schools here are not diverse (at least compared to where we moved from). I have no clue as to why they think free/reduced cost preschool for some would be any better, especially without bussing provided. Do they think lower income families or minorities will be able to drive their kids into middle/upper middle class and/or more white neighborhoods? Because I really don't see the opposite happening...

NE Parent
Anonymous said…
Just Curious, after listening to my preschool teacher wife for many, many years, I think the majority of parents (low-income, middle class, and well-to-do) want their preschooler to be able to sit quietly and follow directions, learn to speak when it's their turn, know how and when to share with others, learn to be a part of a group, and have the beginning skills of reading and math.

Parents want the preschool itself to be safe, clean, and stimulating. They want the teachers/staff to be engaging, kind, and open.

The rest is gravy.

--- swk
NE Parent, you cannot "opt out" of most data collection. Good luck with that one.

Again, what schools have room for this? That's a fairly BIT point. The answer? Just about zero.

Just Curious, my sons went to a GREAT Montessori. Here's what they got (and I was so happy for):

- a nurturing environment that was clean, calm and inviting.
- as SWK said, helping kids to learn to sit quietly, take turns, be helpful and kind
- learn to work alone AND in a group
- learn to take responsibility for actions and self-control
- learning about letters and numbers in a fun way (not a heavily academic way).

Play. Kids that age learn through play and some of it must be unscripted.

I would think that most of us did not go to preschool (heck, I didn't finish kindergarten). I think preschool a good thing for all kids but this aggressive push is troubling.


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