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Getting Seattle parents to pay for full-day kindergarten

Gary Davis
Parents and their kids line-up for registration at Seattle School District headquarters last June, prior to the school year.

Updated Jan. 27, 2011 to correct projected Seattle Public Schools projected deficit for 2011-12 as $36.6 million, rather than $50 million. KPLU regrets the error.

As the Seattle School District deals with a giant deficit, district officials say they’re going to get tough when it comes to collecting money from families.

Parents have to pay $207 a month to send a child to full day kindergarten. But the district is waiting for hundreds of checks to arrive in the mail.

Paying for full-day kindergarten is not new. The state only foots enough money for a half day, so if parents want a full school day, they have to chip in.

What is new is that the district is taking control of the collection. Previously, families could drop a check off at a school’s front office. Now they have to mail a check to district headquarters south of downtown.

Duggan Harmon, the head of the district’s finance department, says so far nearly 400 families have not paid a dime.

"We actually have a process starting this month if we have outstanding balances, past due notices will be sent out."

Harmon says the district will follow those up with a second round of past-due notices, along with a copy sent to the principal, saying if payment isn’t received in 10 days the child will not be eligible for full-day kindergarten.

And if the bill goes unpaid, it will be sent to a collection agency.

The money the district counts on from families to fill the funding gap for full day kindergarten adds up to well over $1 million.

It’s money the district is counting on as it heads into a $36.6 million deficit.

According to the Seattle Schools guidelines, low-income families are exempt from the $207 fee: 

  • The fee will be waived for students eligible for Free/Reduced priced meals (FRL); they will be able to attend full-day K at no charge, no matter what school they attend.
  • The fee will be waived for all students at schools where 55% or more of the students are eligible for FRL; all students at those schools will be able to attend full-day K at no charge.