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Seattle Mayor Murray Declares Victory For Proposition 1B's Pre-K Pilot Program

Kyle Stokes
Genesee Early Learning Center teacher Chanel Priel, center, helps two students as they draw "blueprints" for the pretend construction company their class has been running.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has declared victory for Proposition 1B, an initiative he himself supported to establish a subsidized preschool program.

The mayor made the announcement around 8:30 p.m. election night, shortly after early returns showed Prop. 1B leading with 67 percent of the votes over Proposition 1A.

Prop. 1B's pilot program would eventually cover preschool tuition for up to 2,000 low-income kids through a four-year property tax hike.

Murray said passage of Prop. 1B will help remove a "huge barrier for children of color and children of poor families."

Prop. 1A, the competing initiative, would have set up a training program for childcare workers and immediately raised their minimum wage to $15 an hour.

The campaign behind Prop. 1A did not concede defeat Tuesday. SEIU 925 president Karen Hart said in a statement for the campaign that the union is "committed to working with City Hall to implement whichever proposal prevails in the next few days."

Voters were allowed to support only one of the two early education measures, not both.

When the citizen initiative that became Prop. 1A surfaced over the summer, city leaders and the unions backing the initiative went into talks. Murray hoped to avoid what he called at the time "the double-no," referring to the possibility that voters' shock at the cost of passing two similar initiatives would lead to both of their defeat.

At some point before the deadline for sending initiatives to the city ballot in June, talks between the two sides broke down. City leaders took a political gamble, ruling Prop. 1B and 1A conflicted — a decision that survived a court challenge from Prop. 1A supporters.

Though Murray said Prop. 1A supporters raise valid concerns, he said their initiative didn’t spell out a source of funding.

"Regrettably, there was an opportunity to come together, and I'm sorry the other folks, [though] well-intentioned, walked away from the table. It could've been a mutual victory tonight. We've got work to do going forward," he said.

City-backed Prop. 1B will not directly open a new preschool in Seattle. Rather, the property tax increase will fund student slots in existing preschool programs across the city — enough for 280 students in the 2015-2016 school year and increasing gradually to 2,000 slots by 2018-2019.