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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 20 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 38
Murray endorses plan for universal preschool - Mayoral candidate says pre-K education is essential to success
Section One
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Murray endorses plan for universal preschool - Mayoral candidate says pre-K education is essential to success

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

State Senator and Seattle mayoral candidate Ed Murray has endorsed a plan to provide preschool programs for all three- and four-year-olds in the city.

In a September 17 statement, Murray said he would 'commend and strongly endorse' a plan first developed by Seattle City Council member Tim Burgess to provide universal preschool in Seattle.

'If I am elected mayor,' Murray said in his statement, 'I will work closely with Councilmember Burgess, other members of the City Council, and stakeholders to ensure we put a proposal before the voters during my first term in office.'

Burgess first made the proposal in mid-August, and his Government Performance Committee, which oversees education, held a hearing on it September 4.

The program would be free to children whose families make less than twice the federal poverty level, or about $47,000 for a family of four. A funding measure could go to voters in 2014, and a voluntary program for all city children could start in 2015, Burgess said.

'TICKET TO OPPORTUNITY'
'Education is the ticket to opportunity in our society, and studies show that we need to reach at-risk kids early,' Murray said in his statement.

'Once they fall behind it is very difficult to get them caught up, and far too often they end up falling through the cracks. Currently nearly a quarter of Seattle's third-graders are not proficient in their reading skills, and the results are even worse for children from communities of color - currently more than half of African American children and more than 40 percent of Hispanic children in Seattle do not read at grade level by the third grade.

'That is unacceptable. We need to act, and this plan, which draws on the successes in other cities like Boston and San Francisco, would allow Seattle to become a model for the rest of the state.'

SMALL CLASS SIZES
If approved, the early education plan would embrace several characteristics that are known to benefit the youngest students: classes would last for several hours each day, the class size would be limited to 15 children, there would be specific standards and program outcomes, and the curriculum would be 'evidence-based.'

Veteran State Rep. Ruth Kagi (D-32), chair of the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee, also endorsed the proposal and commended both Burgess and Murray.

'High-quality early learning opportunities for children birth to [age] five are critically important to getting children ready for success in school and beyond,' Kagi said. 'I commend both Councilmember Burgess for proposing a universal pre-K program and Ed Murray for his willingness to make it a priority.'

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