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Durkan Points To Gains In Preschool Program Ahead Of November Vote On Education Levy

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Elaine Thompson
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AP Photo
In this photo taken Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, assistant teacher D'onna Hartman smiles as she works with children at the Creative Kids Learning Center, a school that focuses on pre-kindergarten for 4- and 5-year-olds, in Seattle.

As the city of Seattle asks voters to approve a tax levy in the November election to pay for investments in education, Mayor Jenny Durkan is pointing to a new report that showed progress for kids in the preschool program, which is one of the areas the levy dollars would support.

The Families, Education, Preschool and Promise Levy would raise about $620 million over a seven-year period to pay for programs extending from preschool through community college. It would replace and combine two expiring levies and add an extra $112 annually to the typical Seattle homeowner’s property tax bill compared with what a homeowner pays for the two levies currently.

Durkan said gains in the preschool program show the city’s approach is on the right track and that it's important for the city to invest in early learning to eliminate gaps between different groups of kids once they get to the K-12 system.

“Seattle public schools have come an enormous way, but still, the disparity between kids of color and white kids in both how they perform throughout school but their graduation rates – we have to fix that,” Durkan said. “And the only way to fix it is you have to start early, give them what they deserve and need and continue that quality all the way through.”

Seattle has had a levy-funded preschool system since 2015 and has added children every year. Last school year, there were more than 900 kids in the program. Almost half of them came from families with annual income below $40,000.

Researchers at Rutgers University and the University of Washington have been doing evaluation studies paid for by the city. Durkan said the latest study shows benefits for children in the preschool program.

“Tested across those skills that we know we’re going to need for the future, whether it’s math or reading, they’re improving,” Durkan said.

The report did point out some areas that need attention, including personal care routines, which covers things like hand washing. Durkan said the city uses the evaluation to know what to continue and what needs to be improved.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.