Preschool: Vote for 1B

There are a lot of no-brainers on the ballot this year—funding for buses (YES on Prop. 1), a gun control measure (YES on I-594/NO on I-591), excellent state legislators up for re-election such as Reps. Reuven Carlyle (D-36, Queen Anne), Jessyn Farrell (D-46, N. Seattle), Brady Walkinshaw (D-43, Capitol Hill),  State Sen. David Frockt (D-46, N. Seattle), and newcomer, southeast Seattle senate candidate Pramila Jayapal in the 37th. 

There is, however, an issue on the ballot—preschool funding—that demands explanation, and most likely some nudging from reporters and editors. In fact, after reporting on this issue for a couple of months now, we were still torn ourselves, and so we asked our editorial colleagues at Seattle Met mag to help us convene an editorial board and help us grill both sides. The two sides? Prop 1A and Prop 1B, two competing preschool measures. Last week, both sides came in, and lucky for you, we sorted it all out.

Voters have three choices on the two measures; with us so far?

First you will be asked whether one of the two should be enacted. If more than 50 percent of voters say no, then neither passes. If you vote yes on the first question, and you should because quality preschool puts young children on equal footing when they enter the K–12, then you'll have a choice between 1A and 1B. Whichever one gets to most votes wins.

Prop 1B deserves to win   

Proposition 1A, while well-intentioned—it speeds up early child-care workers’ $15 minimum wage boost, implements new training standards for those workers, increases union influence on training standards, and convenes a child care affordability task force to recommend policies, goals, and benchmarks—is ill conceived. 

The big problem with Prop 1A is the task force element—which turned into catch-all answer (and kind of a metaphor for its shortcomings) when we asked the proponents to explain precisely how the measure would improve preschool for kids. Prop 1A is ultimately a mystery option: It might yield low-cost, commonsense reforms that benefit workers and thus children, but it could also turn out to be a massively expensive exercise in scattershot policy making. Oh, and it's not funded. And there's no agreement on how much it will cost in the first place.

With free preschool for those making 300 percent of federal poverty, Prop 1B focuses on three- and four-year-olds, kids in vulnerable and emergency transition as they approach kindergarten.   

Then there's Proposition 1B—which actually does something. Specific. 

Proposition 1B establishes a four-year, $60 million pilot program for accessible preschool in Seattle. It’s free to families making less than 300 percent of the federal poverty line ($71,000 for a family of four), and aims to serve 2,000 kids by 2018.  

Unlike 1A, it’s (unambiguously) funded by a property tax of about $43 per year for a family living in a typical $400,000 home. 

The debate between the competing camps that took place in our offices boiled down to the 1A side criticizing 1B for not doing enough—an iffy critique coming from advocates of a measure that basically calls for a task force to come back with recommendations. Proponents of 1B responded persuasively that we must start somewhere, and focusing on three- and four-year-olds as they approached kindergarten was a logical stopgap.   

You might find yourself automatically siding with the union-backed 1A because they’re, you know, unions—the true-blue vanguard of progressive policy. But what kids need right now is not a broad and vaguely defined progressive plan (1A); they need a clearly defined progressive plan that gets more kids in classrooms (1B).

PubliCola picks 1B. 

  

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