21 Oct Two Preschool Initiatives: What is the Difference?
Quite a few friends have asked me to explain the difference between the two preschool initiatives on the Seattle ballot. My quick answer is: vote yes, and then vote 1B. On first read both sound like great ideas and in fact if either passes it is a step forward for preschool in Seattle. One however is a fully funded evidence based measure (1B) that will lead to long term and positive change and the other is a basket of great things (and some that are not so great – more later) that didn’t make it into 1B but the SEIU decided to put on the ballot anyway after negotiations with the Mayor’s office failed (1A).
Lets dig into the details.
In Seattle the quality of one’s early learning is where a lifetime of educational inequality begins. On average children from low-income families enter kindergarten with few reading skills, a significantly lower vocabulary and most importantly low executive functions and social skills like empathy, impulse control and anger management. These children are the nearly 40% of kids who cannot afford and do not attend preschool in our wealthy, and quickly growing city. These children will start Kindergarten behind their wealthier preschool educated peers and will most likely not catch up, resulting in the 1/3 of children who will not graduate high school in our state (see Gates Foundation study here). Both these initiatives have landed on the ballot to help address this inequality .
Your ballot will read like this: First off you will be asked to read a short description of each initiative. They both will sounds like progressive ideas – $15 min wage (which to be clear the City Council already passed a $15 min wage, this initiative will not change that), reduce childcare costs and the creation of a “widely available” (read: on the road to universal) preschool option. You will then be asked: should either be enacted into law: vote yes or no. Vote yes.
You will then be asked to decide between the two, which feels a little unfair and a bit confusing. For example 1A includes things that sound really important like “stop violent felons from providing childcare” and a “$15 minimum wage” while 1B – the funded and best designed program of the two – sounds a little boring and includes something about your taxes going up (which is true, the owner of a $400,000 home will pay $43 a year to help poor children go to preschool).
To make it less confusing I like to think of 1B as a well baked apple pie and 1A as the hodge podge of extra ingredients we didn’t include. 1B was designed on evidence based practice on what makes a high quality preschool (result: highly trained, well supported teachers) and what is needed to help low-income families attend (result: $10,000 a year to each child to be spent at quality preschools like Tiny Trees). 1B is fully cooked, it is full of tasty goodness and gets the job done. 1A on the other hand wants our apple pie a’la’mode and with extra seasonings. The ice cream could have been tasty, but some things, like the union’s insistence on having the SEIU run the training program for Seattle’s preschool teachers would just make it taste gross. The city thus did not include all of their ingredients and the SEIU decided to group all of the left overs together and sell it as an alternative to apple pie. Which it is not, it’s just a strange mix of good ideas with no money to turn the ingredients into something great. Faced with a choice between apple pie and the left overs I choose the path to universal preschool. I chose 1B.
For more on 1B and how it works I recommend this article by two university professors that came out this morning in the Seattle Times.
By Andrew A Jay – CEO Tiny Trees Preschool