On Tuesday, as voters across the nation were electing Republicans who vow to cut taxes for the rich, the voters of Seattle were voting to approve a ballot initiative that will raise their property taxes to pay for preschool for poor families who could not otherwise afford it.
The basic question of whether to offer universal preschool had wide support, but there were two separate plans proposed and the two sides were unable to reach agreement as to which should be enacted, so the choice was left to the voters.
One plan, supported by several labor unions, would have capped the cost of preschool at 10 percent of the family’s gross income and eventually raised minimum pay for preschool teachers to $15 an hour. The major flaw was that it did not provide funding which would have had to be found elsewhere. The plan, called Proposition 1A, was supported by the unions.
The second plan appeared on the ballot as Proposition 1B and was endorsed by the Mayor and City Council. It would provide funding by increasing property taxes by 11 cents per $1,000 and offer free or subsidized preschool based on gross income for 2,000 more children by 2018.
The proposition asked two questions: First, it asked if the voter favored universal preschool for Seattle children; second, it asked which plan should be used to implement it.
“The projected costs of Prop 1A have been 100 million bucks and that would have to come from services across the city police, fire, health and human services. It doesn’t help our city,” said Bob Gilbertson of the Greater Seattle YMCA, which backed proposition 1B.
Proposition 1B authorizes a $58 million dollar property tax assessment to pay for a four-year pilot program which will offer preschool on a sliding scale based on income and raise academic standards and pay for preschool teachers.
When the ballots were tallied on Tuesday, 65 percent of voters had approved universal preschool and 67 percent chose Proposition 1B.
A Seattle homeowner with a home valued at $400,000 will pay an extra $43 per year in taxes to pay for selected schools to open slots for families based on income, providing for 280 children in 2015 gradually increasing the numbers to 2,000 in 2018.
Research has shown that the earlier investment is made in children, the greater the return on that investment in terms of graduation rates, lower crime rates, better jobs and lower reliance on welfare. It has been estimated that every dollar invested in early childhood education could return anywhere from $1.80 to $17.o7.
h/t: Washington Post