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Mayor says shrink size of Seattle preschool program


July 8, 2016
AccessEconomics and FinanceGovernance and AccountabilityState & Local
Daniel Beekman & Paige Cornwell
The Seattle Times

The Seattle Preschool Program will have fewer spots than originally projected because the city will begin paying the program’s preschool providers more money per child.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is shrinking the projected number of children the city’s preschool program will serve during its trial period, he said Thursday. Before Seattle voters approved a $58 million property-tax levy in 2014 to pay for the program’s first four years, city officials had projected about 280 children would be served in the 2015-2016 school year, then ramp up to about 2,000 children in 2018-2019. Now Murray is projecting the program will reach 1,615 children by its fourth year. That’s because the city will begin paying the program’s preschool providers more money per child, he said.

Officials are having trouble recruiting additional providers to join the program, said City Councilmember Tim Burgess, a leader in the push for city-funded preschool. “This is why we first launched the Seattle Preschool Program as a pilot program that would allow us to make adjustments,” Murray said in a statement Thursday. “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,” the mayor added, saying quality instruction is his priority.