By Karen Strickland
Local voters are on the threshold of a truly historic decision that could help launch more of Seattle’s youngest citizens toward a successful future. Unfortunately, this opportunity has been clouded by City Hall’s decision to place two positive programs for children in opposition on the ballot. Voters can only choose one of them.
The preschool and early childhood education proposals on the November ballot promise the civic benefit of a more prosperous city that nurtures its children, and implements its progressive values into public policies that reduce crime and poverty—keeping Seattle a place where our children can grow up strong and build their own lives and careers.
Members of the American Federation of Teachers-Washington and SEIU 925 are partners in this undertaking. At both the state and national level, these unions have long been supporters of early education as one of the policies essential to providing our earliest learners their best start possible in life. Did you know that 85% of brain development occurs by age 3?
We also know that our existing child care system, which today serves 30,000 of Seattle’s children, is facing a crisis and needs different solutions.
Our efforts—along with many allies who have come together as the Yes for Early Success coalition—have focused on addressing three key challenges facing early childhood education in Seattle.
First, many families cannot afford it. We support a city policy that places reasonable limits on the percentage of income that families should pay for early education and care programs.
- Second, it is difficult to recruit and retain the excellent early educators that our children deserve. We support raising the minimum wage paid to these professionals and the formal establishment of an organization made up of early educators to represent their interests in the city.
- Third, Seattle must ensure that the programs in which our children enroll are the highest quality possible. We support professional development that guides teachers and care providers—and quality standards that are shaped with input from early educators themselves.
Proposition 1a, Initiative 107, on the November ballot, is the expression of these principles. Also before voters is the Seattle Preschool Program, Prop 1b. We believe these two initiatives are compatible and complementary. Unfortunately, the City Council has taken the position that they are in conflict, which means that Seattle voters are being denied the chance to endorse both parts of a comprehensive approach to early education. We filed a lawsuit and appealed the court’s decision in favor of the city, but in the end, we were unable to get the two proposals separated on the ballot.
Our children need both programs. One is a limited experiment that will serve a portion of Seattle children. Ours is a program initiated with grassroots support— nearly 30,000 petition signatures—that would bolster the standards and quality for all early educators in the city.
In this moment, since we have to choose between two programs, we encourage you to support Proposition 1a, Citizens Initiative 107, developed, sponsored and supported by people working on these issues for nearly 20 years. By supporting the development of an infrastructure that includes community, educators, policy makers and elected officials, we can ensure access to high quality, affordable care for all of Seattle’s children into the future.
Karen Strickland is President of AFT Washington, and a PSARA member.