City Pulling Back on Its Preschool Program

Update: I'm on the Mayor's e-mail list and got his latest newsletter.  What was the headline about the pre-k program?

First year of preschool program a success, DEEL to increase per-child payments

I'm not sure I would call it a success, given its many issues. The article gives a positive spin on nearly every issues like providers not signing up.  As well, it says:
lowing providers who serve targeted populations to reserve a select number of spaces in their classroom to enroll on their own. - See more at:
...allowing providers who serve targeted populations to reserve a select number of spaces in their classroom to enroll on their own."
Except, as the Times reported, those spaces could be filled by children from outside Seattle.  Whether or not there is room or a provider is near a city border is not the issue - the issue is how this was sold to voters.

There's an interesting comment from the early-learning director, Monica Liang-Aguirre:

Ultimately, we are learning what it costs to ensure that our classrooms are high-quality.

I find that curious because that statement could be taken many ways.  I thought that big multi-city trip to all these other cities successful preschools would have given them more clarity on the point of "costs."

As well, the Times also had a story just a week or so before this one about how the Washington state pre-school program, Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), is considered one of the best in the country.  Why didn't the Mayor and the godfather of pre-k, Tim Burgess, model theirs after the State's? 

DEEL is increasing payments to providers and I would assume that will include SPS.

It will be interesting to track how they do in Year two of this so-called pilot program.

end of update
First year of preschool program a success, DEEL to increase per-child payments - See more at:
I received this tweet from a reader who tweeted to me about the City's Preschool program:

It was on KUOW during the 4:30 news update. Ann Dornfeld report. Preschool #'s reduced by 20%. Cost >$ expected.


PreK said…
According to a Seattle Times report, the city spent $14.5M on 15 prek classrooms.

The city's program is part of a research project being conducted out of Rutgers University. I'd love to know the amount of dollars being spent on research. Tim Burgess, Ed Murray and others that promoted the city's prek program did not feel it necessary to inform voters of this little fact.
Anonymous said…
Can't find the story on KUOW yet. I heard the story though. The costs of the preschools are more expensive than anticipated so they have to reduce the number of kids they planned to enroll. I think they were supposed to be up to 2000 kids eventually but that number has been reduced by 20% due to cost.

I saw in the paper that WA state has one of the best preschool programs in the country and it has been around for years. Why didn't Seattle just try to expand that instead of reinventing the wheel?

Anonymous said…

HP, that's a good question. So I asked this same question about the King County birth to five levy. I asked Dow Constantine if this levy would compete or compliment what the city and the state do and he said he didn't know.

I think with limited dollars it is important for elected officials to make sure what already exists and what the real need is.

And yes, I saw that article as well about the WA state preschool program.
PreK said…
This is NO surprise. The city was trying to model an expensive program that served a very small amount of students.

Some of us tried to call attention to the enormous amount of dollars being spent on a large city administration and large amount of administrative salaries. The document is archived in this blog.

It is worth remembering that Tim BURGESS pitted the city's prek initiative against a union backed child care initiative. The child care initiative would have elevated child care worker salaries to $15 per hour. The child care initiative would have worked to assure toddlers were in safe child care homes and centers.

Burgess tried to dismiss those of us calling attention to administrative staff and salaries. We were disrespected.

I am still waiting for the someone to write about the fact that the city's prek program is a research project being conducted out of Rutgers University, and I"m still waiting for someone to write about the fact an Institutional Review Board is overseeing the project to assure subjects of human experimentation are not harmed.

We know that a city prek classroom within SPS is funded at $250K. Where is the other $750K per classroom being spent?

mirmac1 said…
As I've said from the beginning, once SPP figured the costs of truly serving ALL children, they would find that their estimates - plus their high overhead costs, would not truly satisfy the requirements of federal civil rights protections for our neediest youth
mirmac1 said…
I fought hard so that proven Fed programs like Head Start would not be DIMINISHED by hangers-on, but have yet to find find traction on that point.

Many of us have fought to preserve proven early learning program. I am afraid to say that i feel vindicated with respect to early learning programs that are proven (not experimental or pilots) to benefit disadvantaged preschoolers, including those with disabilities that are insured to be served in Head Start...But not under Murray's boutique pilots.......
Anonymous said…
The article in the Times says that part of the problem is that they didn't get as many parents able to pay the full $10,000 enrolled. $10,000 is actually cheaper than many private preschools so parents are choosing other schools for other reasons.

For example, the Seattle Waldorf preschool:


Transitional $4,955 • 2-day $4,955 • 3-day $7,430 • 5-day $12,385 • 5-day 3:00 pm Dismissal $15,145


1:00 pm Dismissal $12,385 • 3:00 pm Dismissal $15,145 • Extended Day (1:00-5:00 pm) available at additional cost; varies by use.

I posted the Kindergarten too because that covers 4 to 6 year olds. SWS preschools and Kindergartens are full and people are paying more.

Anonymous said…
Ed Murray and Tim Burgess billed their program as "high quality" - but in reality, it's very low quality. A long day full of academic curriculum isn't what experts suggest for pre-k and it's not what parents want. The city should have simply used the money to pay for low income kids to attend existing pre-k programs that are good, whether it's Head Start or the Montessori programs. The city could also help enable expansion of those programs to accommodate more kids.

But their plans were never about that. They wanted to use it as a way to get city control over SPS classrooms. This never was about the kids.

Maria M
Anonymous said…
What happens now to all the high-priced data miners they hired?

-- Ivan Weiss
I noted the following at the Times' comment section:

- much of this was predicted by many who opposed this idea. As Maria M points out, they were not able to sell their idea of "high-quality" to middle-class parents. Part of that is probably location which is a big deal to parents. I also agree that many parents are not interested in a 6-hour "academic day."

- the Times is quite careful to note that neither the ballot measure nor the voters pamphlet says anything about 2,000 being served by the end of the pilot program. Maybe not but boy, did Burgess say this on the campaign trail, over and over and over. He pushed this idea and this rollback is on him.

- no wonder the City was pushing to get into SPS - they couldn't get other providers on-board. And again, why weren't they putting these in community centers?

- the Times just reported recently that the Washington State pre-k program is considered one of the best in the country. So how come the City just HAD to create their own program? A waste of time and money if the State's is good

Hubris on the part of the Mayor and Councilman Burgess. Hopefully, the Board will take note.
Also, the article doesn't say it but I would have to believe that Mirmac 1's long-time contention that the City was trying to avoid including Sped pre-schoolers could be part of the reason as well.
PreK said…
I've not forgotten about the data collectors. The prek proposal suggested paying the data and management person $169K. See page 24:

Very good point about not putting the city's promise to provide 2000 students in the voters guide.

How about this:

"The program will now allow providers to have 15 percent of the children in each classroom be children who would not be eligible for the program because they don’t live in the city or for other reasons."

Does this mean SPS will give away spots to out of city residents- and say NO to those living within the district?

IMO, the worse part is that Burgess pitted two initiatives against each other. There are child care workers making less than $15 per hour and toddlers are at risk in potentially unsafe child care centers.The union wanted to make sure felons weren't in the child care business.
PreK said…
Perhaps preschool providers aren't interested in a 25% hold-back. Only SPS is willing to take that risk. :-/
Education researcher said…
Pre-K, you seem to be confusing social research with clinical research. No children are being "experimented on". I do not know the specifics of how Rutgers is involved. If you have specific information on the study (abstract, proposal, aims) I would love to take a look at it. My guess is that they are doing research on the effectiveness of the program. Perhaps they are studying the issues encountered when cities start programs or maybe they are studying the effects of economic concerns on enrollment. An experimental design in a social research context would involve comparing data from a group receiving service "x" to a group not receiving the services. In the case of the Pre-K program, families decide for themselves whether or not to participate.

Institutional Review Boards are involved in ALL university research, clinical and social. It is the FDA of the research world. They exist to make sure that the research conducted is following ethical guidelines. One of their duties is to ensure that the data collected is collected appropriately and that privacy/confidentiality is upheld. Its existence doesn't make the research suspect. The wording they use, "human subjects", etc is unfortunate, but it is not diabolical. A survey to determine the favorite vegetables of Seattleites would go through the IRB. As humans are involved in taking the survey, they are considered "human subjects" for the purposes of ethical review.

Please, absolutely find out more about the Rutger's study. Post it if you find it. However, take a deep breath and realize that the majority of research outside of the medical field does not involve people in lab coats with tasers and needles. Everyone wants to know if programs are effective, if they are being implemented faithfully, if they are worth the taxpayer dollars going into them. That involves studying the program, collecting data, and finding correlations – research. The IRBs exist to make sure that it is being done correctly. Personally, I see the involvement of a university research team as encouraging. It is an independent, outside perspective on whatever the city is trying to do with the Pre-K program.
alex said…
mirmac1 said…
Good point Melissa re: preschoolers with disabilities excluded from. SPP preschools. I'll bet Murray and Burgess presume that our children will bring their "effectiveness" ratings.
mirmac1 said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
mirmac1 said…
In the Times:
PreK said…
Thanks for the comment, Education Researcher.

Education research does show that students receiving 6.5 hours of preschool exhibit signs of stress. As well, K is now the new first grade. I'm concerned about standards being pushed down to prek.

Google: City of Seattle, PreK, Rutgers University and Barnett. You will find some information.

Anonymous said…
Yes, thanks, education researcher. I also hope and assume that the role of the Rutgers team is to evaluate program effectiveness, which is a good thing. It is also my understanding that the SPS programs are using the HIghscope Curriculum, which is one of a curriculums that has been evaluated over the past quarter century, and has shown positive long term outcomes for children. It is not a "A long day full of academic curriculum" Maria M. It is PLAY based, hands-on learning curriculum framework, and if you visited a classroom, you would not say "academics" were the obvious focus. As a matter of fact, families often need "convincing" that their children are indeed learning from their play experiences. IF, IF, IF the teachers are well trained (and staff doesn't turn over each year, etc) and IF, IF, IF, they have quality follow-up coaching (big variables) then this, in my experience, is developmentally appropriate for early learners. It really does look like learning through play!

Anonymous said…
Also, re the Rutgers involvement:

"Seattle Preschool Program Evaluation. NIEER is currently working with Third Sector Intelligence, Inc. in a five year evaluation of Seattle’s newly initiated preschool program (SPP), sponsored by Seattle’s DEEL. This evaluation focuses on measuring and analyzing implementation of the SPP and children’s experiences in the SPP. PIs: Steve Barnett & Milagros Nores."


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