Recognizing the importance of early childhood education, Seattle developed a plan to provide high quality, voluntary and affordable preschool for the city’s three and four year old children. A study mission to Boston, Jersey City and Washington, D. C. in the spring of 2014 with elected officials, preschool providers, education advocates, labor representatives and Seattle School District officials helped solidify a keen focus on quality and student outcomes. A ballot measure was then placed on the November 2014 ballot to increase property taxes to fund a 4-year phase-in of the Seattle Preschool Program. The preschool campaign raised $1.2 million funded primarily by the Seattle business community, including Microsoft, Amazon, Vulcan and other businesses. The measure passed with 69% voter approval.
The Seattle Preschool Program will serve 2,000 children in 100 classrooms by 2018. It will be free to families making up to 300% of the federal poverty level. Families making more will pay tuition on a sliding scale based on income. Preschool classrooms will be provided through a mixed delivery network of community-based and public school facilities. Seattle also fully funds the Nurse Family Partnership, an evidence-based home visitation program for low-income, first-time moms from pregnancy through the child’s second birthday. The city also partners with United Way of King County to provide the Parent Child Home Program, another evidence-based home visitation program focused on reading and parenting skills development. The city launched its Early Learning Academy two years ago, a program designed to increase professional development for child care workers and preschool teachers.