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Seattle Propositions 1A and 1B – Early Childhood Education - King Rat
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Seattle Propositions 1A and 1B – Early Childhood Education

The history of this one is a little convoluted. Labor unions ran an initiative to do a number of things regarding childcare, chief among them raise the childcare worker minimum wage to $15 per hour and require training and certification. They got enough signatures. The city council worked on a universal preschool pilot program. The propositions aren’t exactly one or the other like initiatives 591 and 594 are, but they both concern how to help preschool age children. So the city made it an either-or proposition.

My assumptive goal is to provide children with the resources to be functioning members of society.

So, if either of these measure does that, I’m going to vote yes on part 1. So on to checking both proposals:

Preschool Colors
Photo by Barnaby Wasson (CC By-Nc-Sa)

Proposition 1A

1A does a few things:

  • It sets the minimum wage for child care workers at $15 per hour with a phase-in of three years. The city council passed a $15 minimum wage that can phase in for up to 7 years. I see no reason to make that more complicated. It was a hard negotiated compromise, and I opposed businesses messing with it and I oppose labor messing with it.
  • 1A mandates that the city adopt goals, timelines and milestones to institute a policy that no family pay more than 10% of their income for early education and child care. While that’s a laudable goal, I think a hard limit of 10% is misguided as it doesn’t factor in number of children, their needs, or their families’ circumstances. I think a sliding scale based on family income and adjusted for other factors is a better target. That’s what 1B does.
  • 1A states that violent felons cannot provide child care in a licensed or unlicensed facility. This is perfectly reasonable, though I’d be surprised if the state doesn’t already prohibit violent felons from working in child care facilities.
  • 1A requires the city hire a Provider Organization to facilitate communication between childcare workers and the city. As far as I can tell from the requirements in the initiative, that organization would need to be one of the unions that is sponsoring the measure. I’m all for unionization, but this seems a bit like making the city talk to the union and pay for the privilege.
  • 1A would establish a training institute to be run by the Provider Organization from the last bullet point that would train and certify all childcare workers. Requiring training and licensing seems fine with me, but requiring the program to be run by a union seems a big loss of independence. I’d rather it be run by another organization, or the city itself.
  • 1A creates a Workforce Board to oversee the measure, including the training institute and standards. Half the board is nominated by the mayor, half by the Provider Organization. That seems like too large amount of influence to give to a union.
  • 1A creates a fund to assist small child care providers to meet city standards. That seems like a great idea.

One thing not listed in this is where the funding for it comes from. That isn’t a definitive reason to vote against it in my view, but it does mean I’m gonna look hard at it. The city would have one more priority to work into an existing budget and it’s not like we have a lot of extra money floating around. I’d prefer if we had an explicit ordered priority for our budget so new things like this could be slotted in at some spot in the priority. We don’t, and so the city is going to have to do it, and going to have to cut something or raise taxes for it (and we don’t have much room to raise with current legislative limits). We could raise property taxes similarly to how 1B does it, but will require another vote. I’d much rather it be included in this vote.

All in all, I’m leaning against this, primarily for the reason that it puts too much control into the hands of the industry to regulate and manage itself on the city’s dime. It seems like a way to restrain trade rather than improve education and child care.

Proposition 1B

Proposition 1B creates a four year pilot early learning (i.e., preschool) program with the goal of making it permanent and covering all preschool age children in the city. It will have free or sliding scale tuition based on income. The oversight board includes 12 members of the Families and Education Oversight Committee, which is (I believe) an existing committee that oversees a previous levy. 4 additional members would be part of the oversight board, and they would be Seattle residents with interest and experience with the growth and development of children. Only one of them can be from an organization that receives funding through the measure.

The proposition enacts a property tax that raises $14 million to fund the pilot program. The city won’t need to prioritize other programs out of the budget.

Proposition 1B seems to be a good faith attempt to provide education to young children, which is my goal, rather than provide a large amount of control to a union. I’m all for unions, and even giving them seats at the table. But they should not be in charge, as their interests are with their members, not with children. I don’t think they are opposed to children’s interests, but they aren’t synonymous.

Upshot is, I’ll be voting yes for part 1 of proposition 1, and for 1B for part 2.

Originally published at King Rat. You can comment here or there.

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