Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced Tuesday plans to create a cabinet level department that will focus on closing the achievement gaps in Seattle Public Schools.
“Ninety percent of white fourth graders read at grade level, compared to 56 percent of African-American students,” Murray said at a press conference. “And when you open up those numbers by gender, they actually get worse.”
Murray said the city’s new Department of Education and Early Learning would not compete against the school district. Instead, he said it would help the city coordinate with the district and various organizations on existing programs, such as the family and education levy.
If Seattle voters approve a proposed tax levy this fall to fund a new preschool project, the department would oversee that program as well.
Murray said it’s time to try something different, starting with kids before they enter school.
“Every single study shows that if you have quality pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds, you will change the outcome of those reading levels by fourth grade, you will change outcomes for those folks in graduating from high school. And there’s enough evidence that shows you will change the outcome of their life.”
Murray said the department will be created from existing programs and will be part of his budget proposal that’s coming out September 22.