The March 25 column by Geov Parrish is rife with inaccuracies and misleading statements about the content and intent of the Seattle Preschool Program (SPP).
First, Mr. Parrish states the city developed this program via a rushed process “despite some obvious logistical flaws.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Over the course of two years, the city developed SPP with input from a wide variety of stakeholders and extensive research.
The evidence is clear: High-quality preschool changes lives.
The city council and mayor placed SPP on the ballot as an alternative to a union-backed initiative using the process outlined clearly in Washington state law for such a circumstance, not “apparently out of pique.” The King County Labor Council supported the city’s proposal and, critically, the public did so as well last November (with 69 percent approval!).
Second, Mr. Parrish’s column raises questions about the use of private providers. SPP employs a “mixed-delivery approach,” meaning that the city will select various preschool providers from the community. The city will distribute funds directly to approved providers, not “vouchers” to families.
Providers must meet the program’s high-quality standards. Teachers must achieve specific certifications and will benefit from higher salaries and professional development. The city’s program will help raise the professional profile of this important workforce.
High-quality preschool has been proven to reduce the achievement gap that exists when students enter kindergarten. Seattle’s program prioritizes neighborhoods with low-performing elementary schools, areas with more low-income families, immigrant families and communities of color.
After complaining how the city isn’t ready for rapid preschool expansion, Mr. Parrish seems to admit that putting Seattle on the path to universal preschool is a positive thing. We’re glad he agrees.
SPP intentionally starts small with a focus on quality over quantity. Ramping up over time to serve 2,000 kids by year four, the city can develop the necessary infrastructure for a citywide program, including expanding facilities and teacher credential pathways.
Why is it so important to get this program right? Too much is at stake for our littlest learners. Nearly a quarter of all schoolchildren in Seattle Public Schools can’t read at grade level in the third grade, a strong predictor that a child won’t graduate from high school.
This tragic reality has existed in our public schools for decades. We’ve seen high-quality preschool change this reality in other cities — and we can see it happen in Seattle, too.
— Tim Burgess | President of the Seattle City Council and the Council’s primary sponsor of the Seattle Preschool Program.