Legalize Preschool!

How the City Could Make Early Education—the Best Thing We Can Do for Kids—Available to All Seattle Families

Legalize Preschool!
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"Research shows that one of the best investments we can make in a child's life is high-quality early education," President Barack Obama told the nation during his

January 27 State of the Union address. It was a repeat message from his previous year's address, when he asked Congress to make high-quality preschool available to every 4-year-old. Congress didn't.

"In the meantime, 30 states have raised pre-K funding on their own," Obama continued. "They know we can't wait."

And neither can Seattle.

While our federal and state governments have done a great job in recent years both in making the case for universal high-quality preschool and in defining what a high-quality program might look like, they've done jack shit to put their money where their mouth is. So under the leadership of Seattle City Council president Tim Burgess, Seattle is preparing to go it alone. And if you want an idea of what Burgess has in mind, you might want to look at Boston, because that's what the council is doing.

Boston implemented free universal preschool in 2005, and after some fits and starts, the city-funded program now serves 2,300 4-year-olds in Boston's public schools, plus another 300 students in 13 community-based classrooms. Burgess is leading a delegation of council members to visit Boston later this month for a firsthand look at its program. And at a February 3 hearing, the council as a whole got a briefing from experts who have studied Boston's preschool experiment and found it to be a huge success.

"These are some of the strongest impacts to date from an at-scale program," Professor Christina Weiland of the University of Michigan told the council about Boston's experience. While studies have long reported remarkable results from small preschool programs, Head Start and large statewide programs have proven less successful. But citywide programs in Boston and Tulsa are producing between a half-year and a year of additional learning beyond students in other lower-quality programs.

Boston's example is especially useful to similarly sized Seattle, says Weiland, because we are attempting to build a program on a similar scale. It's a great opportunity, she says, for "city to city learning."

Weiland explains that the key to Boston's success is twofold. First, Boston implemented "structural quality": quantitative standards like class size, adult-child ratio, and teacher qualifications. For example, both state and federal guidelines call for the lead preschool teacher in every classroom to have a minimum of a BA in early learning.

But structural quality isn't enough. A couple years into Boston's program, an independent evaluation found that it was failing to produce results. So the city decided to slow its rollout, retool, and focus on implementing what Weiland calls "process quality," which is the quality of teacher-child interaction, including emotional support and classroom engagement. Structural quality, says Weiland, provides a framework on which to build process quality, but does not guarantee that it will occur.

To achieve process quality, Boston implemented proven early childhood curricula along with regular monitoring of students' progress, to inform (but not evaluate) the teacher. But equally important, says Weiland, is Boston's intensive, in-classroom, twice-monthly (or more) coaching of teachers by former teachers. "This is how we train doctors," says Weiland. "This is how adults learn."

But while Burgess appears to be guiding the council toward Boston's classroom model, that's where many of the similarities end. Boston initially implemented its preschool program entirely through its public schools—due to lack of capacity, Seattle will pursue a mixed delivery model that mostly funds classrooms in private and nonprofit settings, creating a controversy over teacher pay that would not be an issue within our unionized public schools.

And Seattle's universal preschool program will also ultimately be larger, as the goal is to eventually serve both 3- and 4-year-olds. A "gap analysis" released by the council on January 30 found that as many as 37 percent of Seattle's 12,280 3- and 4-year-olds are not currently enrolled in preschool, with about 2,000 of the city's poorest children already served through Head Start and other government-funded programs. At an estimated cost of about $12,000 per student, the price tag for free universal preschool may scare off voters, so council members are currently looking at a sliding scale tuition fee starting at 200 percent of the federal poverty level (about $47,000 for a family of four).

"While it's expensive, the return on investment is huge," Burgess explains—between three and seven dollars back in cost savings and higher tax revenues on every dollar spent, according to the latest studies. And that doesn't even count the improved life outcomes for students: higher graduation rates and incomes, lower incarceration and teen pregnancy rates, better health, and more. "The list goes on and on and on," says Burgess.

It's an investment the city would be stupid not to make. recommended


Comments (36) RSS

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A quick google search revealed several private pre-school options priced at $6-$8K Sept-June. Why is the public option going to cost $12K? Does the program rely on parents paying full-price? I can't imagine anyone paying full price.
Posted by wxPDX on February 8, 2014 at 1:38 PM · Report this
WA state currently doesn't require private preschools to have any certification beyond that as a daycare-type facility. Teachers trained as early learning teachers should command more salary (and there's a whole second argument about how underpaid some of these young children's classroom support/teachers are paid). Also, you might need to build classrooms/schools to accommodate the new PreK'ers.

This is an all-day preschool or a half day ?
Posted by ChefJoe on February 8, 2014 at 1:46 PM · Report this
I've informed Goldy before about the current requirements for private preschools. It's quite possible that the current preschool system will have to be gutted to ensure all classrooms have a suitably trained teacher (to meet the guidelines Goldy and the state and feds indicate).…

From the Department of Early Learning

Private preschools or kindergartens offer primarily educational curriculum for no more than four hours per day. DEL does not license or oversee private preschools. However, some private preschools and kindergartens are certified with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).

A private preschool that operates more than four hours per day is subject to child care licensing and DEL oversight. Some licensed child care providers may also offer kindergarten curriculum. You can learn more about these programs by searching DEL’s Child Care Check.
Posted by ChefJoe on February 8, 2014 at 1:57 PM · Report this
Goldy 4
@1 There is a difference between preschool and high-quality preschool. The return on investment promised just isn't realized unless the program is high quality.

@3 Private preschools will be free to offer the same services they offer now. They just won't qualify for city subsidies as part of our high-quality program unless they might these higher city standards.
Posted by Goldy on February 8, 2014 at 2:34 PM · Report this
Phoebe in Wallingford 5
In the final analysis, home pre-schooling is the best way spend those precious years for both parent and child.
Posted by Phoebe in Wallingford on February 8, 2014 at 3:06 PM · Report this
word3 6
@1 - wish I had contacted you when I was looking for preschools. After exhaustive searches, phone calls and personal inspections I did not find any quality preschools (preschools where I could count on early learning - not just a kid that was alive at the end of the day) for under $1000 per month.
Posted by word3 on February 8, 2014 at 3:32 PM · Report this
Joe Szilagyi 7
@5 based upon what?
Posted by Joe Szilagyi on February 8, 2014 at 5:00 PM · Report this
Goldensteinemberg is right, the sooner this kids are taken away from their fucked up mamas and made wards of the state, the better.
Posted by Wards for Life on February 8, 2014 at 5:25 PM · Report this
Phoebe in Wallingford 9
@5: Motherhood.
Posted by Phoebe in Wallingford on February 8, 2014 at 6:29 PM · Report this
" Motherhood."

@9 You don't understand, some mamas aren't fit to be mothers. Better their children be taken away from them a raised as wards of the state.
Posted by Baby Mama on February 8, 2014 at 6:51 PM · Report this
Goldy 11
@9 Even if we were to accept your assertion as fact, what would you suggest for children in households where both parents must work in order to make ends meet?
Posted by Goldy on February 8, 2014 at 7:14 PM · Report this
Clara T 12
@5 absolute horseshit. My kid read at a 2nd grade level and could do multiplication and division before the first day of kindergarten. Also totally-secure, socially advanced, empathetic, and happy. I credit this to a matrix of good parenting and an excellent academic preschool. The sorry ass dated Dr. Laura drivel that kids do better at home and preschool tots are dumped off and neglected is just that. If I was to sling the same snobby bullshit at you I'd say your stay at home kid is less well-adjusted but probably you are a good mom and that's not the case.
Posted by Clara T on February 8, 2014 at 7:27 PM · Report this
Phoebe in Wallingford 13
@11: Then obviously, but unfortunately, day care or pre-school.
The point is to avoid that predicament in the first place.
Posted by Phoebe in Wallingford on February 8, 2014 at 10:31 PM · Report this
Skot 14
Can we stop engaging the moron that is Phoebe? She's about as funny as a shoe, except shoes are occasionally funny.
Posted by Skot on February 8, 2014 at 11:07 PM · Report this
collectivism_sucks 15 other words I have to be taxed to pay for someone else's kids to go to preschool.

Can't afford quality preschool? DON'T HAVE KIDS! That Simple. And if you really do need help giving the little crouch fruit an education, I will gladly help to some extent. I would just rather donate to help voluntarily then be taxed without my consent.

But really, between having to work longer hours because co-workers have maternity leave, having to deal with whining brats all over this city and everything else, and now having to pay even HIGHER TAXES for someone else's kids, the war on us child-free folks is truly kicking into high gear.

For once I would like to see parents taxed to give us child-free people free stuff from the government too, to show the breeders how it feels.
Posted by collectivism_sucks on February 9, 2014 at 12:55 AM · Report this
Cato the Younger Younger 16
We can do this as long as we don't blow any money on more sports stadiums.
Posted by Cato the Younger Younger on February 9, 2014 at 6:59 AM · Report this
Are we ignoring @collectivism sucks as a troll, or is someone really trying to argue he gets no benefit from an educated workforce? Has this @collectivism sucks argued against the armed forces or highways yet?

The worst part about arguing with the ignorant: a new crop of stupid get reaped every year.
Posted by six shooter on February 9, 2014 at 8:04 AM · Report this
I know a large body of data shows that kids who go to preschool do better in school and have a higher graduation rate and are less likely to do stupid, self destructive things, but MAYBE that's because parents who can afford to enroll their children in preschool are generally wealthier and can thus afford a better overall education for their children, and can raise their kids in better environments which in turn leads to less self-destructive behavior.

Correlation does not prove causation. I am willing to bet cash money that sticking kids in glorified daycare when they're 3 years old will not improve their SAT scores BY ITSELF. If you want to improve our public school system, then FUND our public school system. Expand it in meaningful ways, and stop treating teachers like shit. It really is that simple!
Posted by Brandon J. on February 9, 2014 at 8:05 AM · Report this
Goldy 19
@18 No, the studies compare like cohorts. Because researchers aren't as stupid and/or dishonest as you would like to believe.

High-quality universal preschool saves taxpayers money in the long run, due to savings in reduced demand for incarceration and social services, and in increased revenues due to higher incomes and property values. You may argue over who should pay for this investment, but it is an investment nonetheless.
Posted by Goldy on February 9, 2014 at 9:20 AM · Report this
Phoebe in Wallingford 20
High-quality universal preschool saves taxpayers money in the long run, due to savings in reduced demand for incarceration and social services, and in increased revenues due to higher incomes and property values. You may argue over who should pay for this investment, but it is an investment nonetheless.

How does preschool raise their parent's take home pay?

Staying at with loving MARRIED parents (no shacking up) also reduces incarceration and social services.

Yes, there are great preschools and in some cases it is the best option but it's very sad when those parents realize they won't have those enchanting years sharing the experience as the child discovers the world.
Posted by Phoebe in Wallingford on February 9, 2014 at 10:24 AM · Report this
Phoebe in Wallingford 21
Oops @20 was meant for Goldy on @19.
Posted by Phoebe in Wallingford on February 9, 2014 at 10:25 AM · Report this
@phoebe: most people are neither good at nor enjoy parenting. they would gladly trade another crappy 8 hours per week at the office for a few moments of kid-free peace.

don't get mad at those people for enjoying life differently than you.
Posted by six shooter on February 9, 2014 at 12:39 PM · Report this
collectivism_sucks 23
Highways are fine, however, ideally they should only be funded by gas tax and car tabs. If one chooses to drive, one should pay the price of roads.
The military is 100% fine for a minarchist society. However, it is wrong to have hundreds of bases all over the world benefiting only the military industrial complex and costing countless lives and making us bankrupt.
As for schools, they should be run by parents and the community based on consent. If someone asks me to donate for a preschool I would probably say okay, but I don't want to be taxed for something I'll never use.
The reason preschools are so expensive is due to regulations that go way beyond safety. Things like making it illegal to run a preschool from a residential zoned building or saying one needs teachers to join a cartel (union) despite how qualified they are brings the price of preschool up and makes it difficult for communities to run them.
I've personally seen an illegal daycare that was run by Filipino immigrants that had a former pre-school teacher and an RN running it along with volunteers. The government that I assume you love would have shut it down if given the chance.
So I say this to your argument:…
Posted by collectivism_sucks on February 9, 2014 at 12:54 PM · Report this
@collectivism sucks: make it happen, Captain.

Despite the pittance we -- the people, the government I assume you hate -- demand from you, we're pretty comfortable with you living under whichever system of governance you'd like so long as you keep that shit on your land and prevent it from hurting the rest of us.

You understand, of course, you're holding your theoretical / idealized system of rule in comparison with an actual, not-in-a-vacuum system then faulting the actual system for not being as idealized as your theory.

Would you please copy that meme from where-ever you found it and edit it so it says: "I fed a troll. I hope he get hurt patting himself on the back."?
Posted by six shooter on February 9, 2014 at 1:18 PM · Report this
Phoebe in Wallingford 25
@22: I disagree. By and large, most parents enjoy the experience. And if your house isn't peaceful with the little tots running around creating havoc then you're not a very imaginative parent. There are fun and learning ways to remedy that.
Posted by Phoebe in Wallingford on February 9, 2014 at 1:26 PM · Report this
collectivism_sucks 26
We did fine with limited government for ages, so it isn't "theoretical". In the old west there was no government in the territories and yet school and social programs still exactly did that happen?
And I'm not being "left alone" if I have to be taxed for something I don't use. I don't have kids, never will (I call them the eighteen year STD) but I'm going to be taxed for someone else's kids.
I have a ferret, I love her to death. Should you be taxed so I can take my favorite to the vet for free? That wouldn't be fare, and neither would me paying taxes for someone else's kids.
Posted by collectivism_sucks on February 9, 2014 at 1:53 PM · Report this
"My kid read at a 2nd grade level "

Dad's genes?

You know what holds black kids back in Seattle? 70% of them are bastards, children of single mothers. Fix that problem first.
Posted by Having two parents is the most important factor on February 9, 2014 at 5:26 PM · Report this
If the old west were such a libertarian wonderland, why haven't you and your legion of not-in-my-backyard cranks recreated it?

Specie was rampant in the old west. Script thrived as well. I suppose you find fault with the "Full faith and credit" clause and expect each free man to honestly pay his debts through exchanges all magically free from manipulation and fraud.

Starvation, murder, the unchecked executions of men not yet tried, disease, and graft: all common in the limited-government West, all reduced or prevented through the advances of "modern" collective government.

I've seen other libertarian wonderlands, btw. The network of small fiefdoms in Appalachia resemble your "we don't pay nothing for nobody" paradise. The favalla's in Rio are also fairly free from government meddling. No one pays for anyone else's kids to go to school on the trash piles outside Calcutta.

Modern countries competing in modern economies leverage their collective productivity. My kids don't "belong" to me. I, however, freely choose to take advantage of the benefits of a country devoted to protecting the welfare of its citizens.

How do you feel about "common goods" like lighthouses, canals, power-plants and railroads? I wonder if you could name a single railroad built and operated privately for more than ten years. I can name three profitable railroads government subsidized or owned without flipping to a new tab and Googling.

If I had reason to believe your ferret may someday add to the common good or general welfare, I surely would subsidize his healthcare. I didn't mind lending your vet money so he could go to school. I didn't mind subsidizing the college where your vet earned his education. I hope ferret doesn't have any exotic diseases, but if he does, I don't mind lending at low interest rates the money the drug manufacturers need to bring his miracle cure to market.

Don't get started on fair. You lucked into getting born into your circumstances. At best "your" effort has earned you 10% of your prosperity. Explain "fair" to the kid unlucky enough to have been born into one of your modern libertarian paradises.
Posted by six shooter on February 9, 2014 at 5:28 PM · Report this
collectivism_sucks 29

Ah, the old west was actually a lot calmer than people make it out to be, as was medieval Iceland.

And yes, we can build roads and bridges and everything else through voluntary taxation and free association or private companies.

As for poor countries, they actually have less economic freedom than developed countries, so that argument falls flat as they are far from "libertarian" in any sense of the word. Source:…

And if you were willing to subsidize my ferret, I would be happy with that, but I would never want anyone to be taxed against their will to pay for them. Likewise I would gladly help pay for preschooler's tuition, I just don't want that money to be taken out of my check whether I want it or not.
Posted by collectivism_sucks on February 9, 2014 at 6:29 PM · Report this
What is a country if everyone volunteers for each tax and ad-hoc pays for bridges?

When I speak of regulation-free areas, I'm not speaking of "poorer" or "less developed" countries (although who is the "developer" of the "more developed" nations). I'm speaking of independent regions largely ignored by their neighboring governments. Haven't you lead me to believe you would also like to live in a region largely ignored by its neighboring governments?

Modern Economics speaks of efficiency and inefficiency. Perfectly competitive businesses gain advantage by removing obstacles between production and consumption. "Less Developed" countries are less successful in a global marketplace because their competitors provide goods better.

Get born someplace with no natural resources? Sorry, Charlie. Live someplace far from common shipping routes? Enjoy poverty.

You want to convince us to make our nation less competitive by under-educating our workforce because freedom? At the same time you're unwilling to give real freedom a shot?
Posted by six shooter on February 9, 2014 at 7:13 PM · Report this
Phoebe in Wallingford 31
I must say, however, that my predisposition to the matter is greatly influenced by an conditions that are obsolete for today's parents. Indeed, there are pre-school's and day-cares run and staffed by terrific and loving people and considering that being left with random babysitters it would be better for the kid to go to preschool. I need to give up this soapbox. Sigh.
Posted by Phoebe in Wallingford on February 9, 2014 at 8:00 PM · Report this
collectivism_sucks 32
Again, those undeveloped places are like that because of either governments (colonialism and such) or government corruption.
Those places are "ignored" in that government is corrupt and makes self governance impossible. Like Calcutta: poverty exists because of government regulations. If someone started a volunteer government the current government would step in and squash it.
As for natural resources, the reason they are divided is because of political boundaries created by, you guessed it, governments. In a minarchist society people will be free to move wherever they like.
And yes, more developed countries can provide better services because they have less government corruption on average and more economic freedom, as the link I posted (and you ignored) proves.
And no, for the tenth time, I don't want to "under educate" our workforce. Saying the only way people will gain education is through forced taxation and a state-owned education system is like saying the only way people will ever have sex is if we allow rape.

For the tenth time, I would gladly give my own money to fund education, as would most people. It's just the way the money is acquired (involuntary taxation) and who uses it (a government that takes most of it to fund endless wars of aggression) that I have a problem with.

Bottom line is this: no one is entitled to anyone else's property, including their money. You can ask for it and receive it freely and probably will, but just as it's wrong for someone to have a friend rob you at gun point for money to pay for school it is wrong for you or anyone else to use government to rob anyone of part of their pay check to run a school.

And just as it is perfectly moral to ask me to help you out to give your kid an education, it's perfectly fine to start a co-op type thing and fund schools through a mixture of tuition and voluntary donations.
Posted by collectivism_sucks on February 9, 2014 at 8:03 PM · Report this
Bottom line is this: no one is entitled to anyone else's property, including their money.

I believe you have a very strange idea of money. Maybe the problem is mine.

The resources and the distribution of people pre-date government. Saying government defines who gets resources is like saying the resources belong to all the people and exists because those people had to find a way to distribute the resources with the least amount of bloodshed.

Either way, I have no problem taking money from you, regardless of your feelings about it. Since you can't stop me, I guess it doesn't matter.
Posted by six shooter on February 9, 2014 at 8:48 PM · Report this
The problem with only Seattle providing free/subsidized preschool is that many of the families that really need it (because they can't pay for it themselves) have been priced out of the Seattle rental market and although they may work in Seattle, they're now living in Seatac or Renton.

Posted by sarah70 on February 9, 2014 at 11:34 PM · Report this
Ok, the idea is good, but take a close look at how our plan would be very different from the one in Boston. Remember also that often Seattle's preschool children are not served in preschool in Seattle and that many of the children served in Seattle do not live in Seattle. This is a great idea, but investigating the different modes of funding here and in Boston have to be part of the conversation. I was disappointed that those details were not part of the presentation to the City Council. Getting it right is important or there will be a waste of public resources that could better serve these same families.
Posted by joannac on February 10, 2014 at 10:50 AM · Report this
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