Mayor Edward Murray announced today that the Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL) is making enhancements to the Seattle Preschool Program (SPP) after a successful first school year that served 280 students in 15 classrooms.
“Any preschool program aiming to prepare kids for kindergarten and beyond has to prioritize achieving high quality, said Murray. “This is why we first launched the Seattle Preschool Program as a pilot program that would allow us to make adjustments as we gradually scale up. The big lesson learned after Year One is that we need to make it more attractive for providers to participate in the program, including reducing barriers and enhancing the providers’ financial incentives and the per-child investment.”
In order to maintain the high-quality standards of the program and facilitate SPP’s expansion across the city, the City will raise the payments to its early learning providers by an average of 21 percent in Year Two. Funding to each provider varies based upon their funding structure.
“We are incredibly lucky to have such amazing partners in SPP,” said early learning director, Monica Liang-Aguirre. “They are true pioneers in quality early learning and have provided great insight into the on-the-ground implications of SPP. Being responsive to them helps us ensure that the program is successful and sustainable.”
In addition to the rate increase, City Council approved additional enhancements to the program this spring, including expediting the curriculum waiver, updating the student selection process to be more “parent friendly”, and allowing providers who serve targeted populations to reserve a select number of spaces in their classroom to enroll on their own.
“After a very successful first year, we have identified reasonable adjustments to move the pilot forward, serving more children while maintaining high-quality classroom experiences,” said Councilmember Tim Burgess. “A high-quality preschool program is one of the most effective investments we could possibly make to close the opportunity gap for so many of our kids. There will likely be further adjustments as we move through the pilot phase and prepare for a city-wide rollout.”
To accommodate the higher payment structure, DEEL will adjust the program’s expansion targets. SPP was projected to reach 2,000 children by year four; DEEL has now adjusted this target to 1,615 children annually by the fourth year.
“Ultimately, we are learning what it costs to ensure that our classrooms are high-quality,” said Liang-Aguirre.
Additionally, DEEL has awarded facility development grants to three providers: Refugee Women’s Alliance, Causey’s Learning Center, and Sound Childcare Solutions Hoa Mai preschool. These funds will support these organizations to build an additional 70 preschool slots for the Seattle Preschool Program. Capital funds are also being invested in city Parks facilities and in the development of Fire Station 39 in Lake City into a mixed use low-income housing facility.
Program expansion adjustments and provider payment changes will take effect for the 2016-17 school year.
Seattle Preschool Program is a four-year levy-funded, city-wide preschool program. The program offers high-quality preschool to Seattle’s 3- and 4-year olds while also learning what it takes to make universal preschool a scalable reality in Seattle.
The four-year pilot program funds early learning providers to operate preschool classrooms in partnership with the City, and supports these programs with funding, student enrollment, professional development, classroom coaching, access to capital improvement funds, tuition funds for staff, and other quality program supports.