On the November ballot, you’ll be choosing between two different proposals on early childcare. One, Prop. 1 B, launches a universal preschool pilot-program, to provide pre-kindergarten schooling to 2,000 three and four year-olds over the course of four years. If the program, which is backed by the Mayor and city council members, is successful, it will gradually expand to offer preschool to all eligible Seattle children.
The other proposal, Prop. 1 A, is backed by early childhood care and education workers’ unions. It would boost those workers’ minimum wage to $15 per hour within three years and codify into city policy that no family should pay more than 10 percent of its income on childcare. It would also add more regulation to the care and education of young children, with the city and a “provider organization” (in effect, one of the unions) together managing regulations, subsidies, and worker training.
Perhaps the biggest point of contention between advocates of the two proposals is money. The city’s smaller pre-K plan has an estimated price tag of $58 million over four years, a property tax proposal costing the average Seattle homeowner about $43.36 per year. The childcare workers’ proposal does not have a funding source, and its cost is a subject of staggering disagreement: Its advocates say it will only cost $3 or 4 million per year, while the city estimates an annual cost around $100 million. Central to this dispute is whether (and how much) the proposal would create an unfunded mandate.
Read Erica’s breakdown of the two competing preschool measures here. And here's our coverage of their recent court battle (the union tried to have voters consider them separately, but lost that fight. Meanwhile, the King County Labor Council actually endorsed the city version over the union version.)
So, Seattle: what’s your vote?
You're not the only one who'se confused, by the way. The Seattle chamber of commerce endorsed the city version this week, but sent out a press release proclaiming they'd endorsed Prop. 1 A, the union version.
Clarification: Saying that Prop. 1 A "codif[ies] the right to affordable childcare into city law" was imprecise and potentially misleading, as Heather Weiner, spokesperson for Yes for Early Success (the unions' measure), pointed out to us on Monday. Whether or not Prop. 1 A would create such a right is a subject of dispute; here's the actual language from the measure:
It shall be the policy of the City of Seattle that early childhood education should be affordable and that no family should have to pay more than ten percent (10%) of gross family income on early education and child care. This policy is intended to increase affordability of child care in conformance with federal and expert recommendations on affordability.
The City shall, within twelve months of the effective date of this Ordinance, adopt goals, timelines, and milestones for implementing this affordability standard. In adopting these standards, the City shall consult with stakeholders, who at a minimum must include parents, communities of color, child advocates, low income advocates, and the provider organization.
Later on in the measure:
The requirements contained in this act constitute ministerial, mandatory, and nondiscretionary duties, the performance of which can be judicially compelled in an action brought by any party with standing. Should a person be required to bring suit to enforce this ordinance, and the City is found to be in violation, the City shall be responsible for reimbursement of the costs of such enforcement action, including reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.