The city is beginning to hammer out the details of the subsidized preschool program Seattle voters approved two weeks ago. At a news conference Wednesday, Mayor Ed Murray announced the first two members of an advisory group that will lay out recommendations for things like how the city should select care providers.
Erin Okuno is executive director of the Southeast Seattle Education Coalition, and Kevin Washington is chair of the board of directors of Thrive by Five. Murray said they will serve as co-chairs of the advisory group, with more members to be appointed soon.
"They’ll work on curriculum development, how we’ll deal with student enrollment as we scale this up, the process of deciding what is the best way to evaluate the program as we go forward to be sure that we’re doing this right, getting it right; so not only these children succeed, but we can go back to the voters to expand this program," Murray said.
The advisory group will look at how to ensure that the preschool classrooms have a diverse mix of students. Murray said research shows that economically diverse preschools yield the best results for the low-income students who are to be the preschool program's main beneficiaries.
The city will also kick off a series of six community meetings this weekend. Each will consider a different element of the preschool plan, from teacher training to family engagement.
Murray said he’ll present an implementation plan to the city council February 23.
The first Seattle Preschool Program classes are slated to start next fall with about 300 students. The four-year pilot program will have space for 2,000 students by its final year.
Tuition will be free for a family of four making about $72,000 a year or less. Families earning more will pay on a sliding-scale basis.
The program will increase the average Seattle homeowner’s property taxes by about $43 a year.