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Seattle’s Preschool Program Is Starting To Take Shape With A Little Help From Boston

Kids read at a preschool program in Seattle
Seattle Office for Education
Kids read at a preschool program in Seattle

The universal preschool program Seattle voters said yes to last November is starting to take shape. As it works out the details, the City is getting a lot of advice from Boston. That city, which is home to world renowned universities, is also considered a national leader in early childhood education since it launched its preschool program in 2005.

Jason Sachs, the Director of Early Childhood Education with Boston Public Schools, gave a presentation to Seattle City Council’s education committee.  

“Quality, quality, quality,  I really think who the teacher is and what the teacher teaches is going to be critical. And how it’s evaluated is also going to be critical,” said Sachs.


Researchers say what’s happening in Boston is working. By the 3rd grade, the children who got that extra year in the classroom performed 30% better than their peers who didn’t get that experience.


Boston’s program serves kids not only from different ethnic backgrounds, but also students whose households are low income, wealthy and everything in between. Sachs told Council members that economic diversity is crucial to success.


“If you have some kids with greater background knowledge and vocabulary and have seen things,  been exposed to things and can bring different ideas, and that includes culture, ‘Oh, you’re Haitian and you tell stories this way,’ kids learn a lot from each other, especially in early childhood.”


Boston’s program is free for all students. Seattle’s preschools will be free for low income students and some middle income  households. But families that make more money will be charged a modest tuition. For example, a family of three with an income of $75,000 will have to pay $1500. To subsidize this, Seattle voters approved higher property taxes last November. The $58-million dollar preschool levy will last for four years.


Seattle is starting out with 14 classrooms. Where they will be located will be announced in June. This is also when families will learn how they can apply. The three and four year old students will start attending in September.

Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.