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Seattle City Council Delays Preschool Vote After New Ballot Initiative Comes To Light

Charla Bear
Preschool students in Beacon Hill cut up local, organic red potatoes on May 4, 2011. The potatoes are part of an effort to get more fresh produce into childcare and senior sites.

The Seattle City Council on Monday delayed a vote on a proposed preschool expansion plan following last week's announcement that a separate referendum had gained enough signatures to appear on the November ballot.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray asked the council to hold off and study how Initiative 107, a "potentially competing proposal," would impact the chances of the preschool pilot program city leaders had also hoped to put before voters in the next general election.

I-107 would create a training program open to all Seattle early childhood educators and hike the minimum wage for child care workers in the city to $15 an hour.

Supporters say there's no reason voters couldn't approve both I-107 and the city's proposal, which would ask voters to pass a four-year, $58 million property tax hike to cover preschool tuition for low-income families.

Council president Tim Burgess says I-107, if passed, would loosen the city's control over which teachers are qualified to teach in the city's preschool program. Murray cited the initiative's potential impact on the minimum wage deal the council recently passed.

Supporters say the passage of I-107 would make professional development opportunities available for a wider audience of childcare workers. Only a relative handful of preschool teachers, supporters point out, would be involved in the city's preschool program.

Kyle Stokes covers the issues facing kids and the policies impacting Washington's schools for KPLU.
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