Seattle Preschool Program

Mayor Murray reads a story to a preschool class at Neighborhood House's High Point location in Seattle

“There is nothing more morally important that I will do as Mayor in the next four years than creating a high quality preschool program for 3- and 4-year-olds in Seattle.”
-Mayor Ed Murray


Over the last decade, it has become clear that the education “gap” is about more than achievement on standardized tests. From the time children enter school, there is a “preparedness gap.” While some children have ample opportunities to develop school-ready social and pre-academic skills, many others do not. The education “gap” is about opportunity. In Seattle, it is our goal to ensure that every child has the opportunity to thrive in school and life.

On average, children from low-income families and children of color have fewer opportunities to become appropriately prepared for the social and academic challenges of the K-12 system than their peers. Due at least in part to this opportunity gap, in Seattle today, economic and racial disparities persist in third grade reading levels, fourth grade math levels, and high school graduation rates. According to former President of the American Educational Research Association, professor, and researcher Gloria Ladson-Billings, the “historical, economic, sociopolitical, and moral decisions and policies that characterize our society have created an education debt” — a debt formed by annually compounding disparities.

We must address these disparities now, for the sake of our children and our children’s children. Social justice cannot wait as more debt accrues. Now is the time to create opportunities for success. Now is the time to close the opportunity and preparedness gaps. Read more background in our Seattle Preschool Program Action Plan.


Mayor Murray will transmit legislation to City Council proposing the following:

  • A four-year, $58 million levy to fund a demonstration phase of the Seattle Preschool Program that will build toward serving 2,000 children in 100 classrooms by 2018.
  • The cost will be $43.36 a year or $3.61 a month to the average homeowner in Seattle.
  • The plan is anchored in evidence-based practice, acknowledging that program quality is vital to success.
  • The program will be provided through a mixed-delivery system, with classrooms offered by Seattle Public Schools and community providers.
  • The program will be voluntary for providers and participants.
  • The program will have the ultimate goal of serving all eligible and interested 4-year-olds and all 3-year-olds from families making less than 300% of the federal poverty level in Seattle.
  • Tuition will be free for children from families earning less than the 200% of the federal poverty level.
  • Tuition will be on a sliding scale for families earning more than 200% of the federal poverty level with at least some level of subsidy for all families.
  • The program establishes high standards for teacher education and training and fully supports teachers in attaining these standards through tuition assistance and embedded professional development.
  • Staff compensation levels are designed to attract and retain well-prepared teachers and to provide fair compensation for a traditionally poorly compensated sector of our economy.
  • The program creates a feedback loop to inform programmatic improvement through ongoing, independent evaluation.

This proposal is built on the high-quality parameters of the BERK Recommendations and those of City Council Resolution 31478. The implementation schedule is realistic, so that the necessary quality is truly achieved before the Seattle Preschool Program is expanded. Lessons learned through the four-year demonstration phase of the Seattle Preschool Program will guide our actions in coming years as we work toward achieving our goal of expanding access to affordable, high-quality preschool to Seattle’s 3- and 4-years-olds.

This Administration looks forward to working with partners across the educational continuum to collaborate in making other strategic, evidence-based investments to eradicate the opportunity, achievement, and preparedness gaps.


  • The plan is evidence-based. If implemented with fidelity, it will narrow, even eliminate, the opportunity and preparedness gaps and deliver significant academic gains for the children of Seattle.
  • The plan will demonstrate meaningful collaboration and key partnerships with Seattle Public Schools, the Washington State Department of Early Learning, community-based preschool providers, early childhood development providers, and other stakeholders to deliver an effective and coordinated program that leverages existing resources.
  • The plan includes a realistic and practical timeline to achieve and sustain high-quality preschool.
  • The program will be affordable for low- and middle-income families, ensuring that cost will not be a barrier to participation in high-quality preschool.
  • The plan calls for ongoing monitoring and evaluation to ensure we meet our school readiness, quality, and achievement goals.
  • The plan provides for the support and resources to meet the high-quality standards and expectations of the program.
  • Beyond classroom instruction, the initial phase will include an additional set of policies, services, and program elements, that may be modified or enhanced in future phases of the program.
  • The Seattle Preschool Program is voluntary. It is voluntary for families and it is voluntary for providers.





The Mayor and Councilman Burgess should remember a couple of things. 

We all like this idea (I honestly have not heard one person say no).  But the devil is in the details.  

Their plan seems to think there will be room at (or made) at Seattle Schools.  That is not in any capital planning right now.  SPS is maxed out and continues to grow and their first priority is K-12.  The City should not think of this really as an option because it certainly is not possible for the foreseeable future.

I also note that the City seems to be on the bandwagon for data on students.  Now they want data on preschoolers.  The Department of Education and Department of Labor are co-sharing an initiative to gather data on our public school students from pre-K to 20 to make a big data cloud.  And, it's not just test scores.  It's things like family income, discipline records, teacher comments, etc.  

I want my city to protect student data privacy, not give it away.