This post was originally published on Seattle Medium

By Aaron Allen

        The Seattle Preschool Program (SPP) opens its application process on March 15, 2023, for the 2023-24 school year. The program, a partnership between the Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL), the Seattle Public School District (SPS), and community partners, provides high-quality early learning experiences, including pre-kindergarten, for Seattle children.

        According to Dwane Chappelle, Director of DEEL, the program is a critical step in preparing and transitioning preschoolers into their elementary school experience.

        “High-quality early learning experiences are vital in helping our children build a strong foundation for school and life,” said Chappelle. “Multiple pieces of research show that children with access to high-quality early learning opportunities have better life and academic outcomes, and I am a firm believer that every child should have that opportunity.”

        Studies show that children who arrive at kindergarten prepared to learn perform better throughout school and complete more years of education. A more educated workforce means higher incomes, more public revenues, and less poverty and crime – in other words, a thriving city that attracts business and jobs.

        With 90 sites, 138 classrooms, 76 of which are operated by community-based providers, 36 by Seattle public schools, and 26 by family childcare providers, SPP offers culturally responsive curriculums and linguistic diversity. The program’s well-trained and culturally diverse staffing and a host of educational resources provide families and their young students with an enhanced educational experience.

        “In 2021-2022, 77% of enrolled children identified as BIPOC; (30% Black or African American, 17% Asian, 15% Hispanic/Latino, 13% two or more races, 1% North African/Middle Eastern, 1% American Indian/Alaskan Native, 1% Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, and 23% white),” according to DEEL statistics.

        In 2021-2022, 32% of Black/African American kindergarteners in Seattle Public Schools had participated in the Seattle Preschool Program. According to DEEL, 63% of the program’s participants were kindergarten ready. Black and Asian SPP participants were more likely to be kindergarten-ready than their non-SPP peers.

We want our family’s children to flourish in life and it starts with DEEL but ultimately starts with parents enrolling their children in our preschool program. So, we want them to apply and make sure that our families have access.

Dwane Chappelle, Director of DEEL

        “The Seattle Preschool Program provides access to a culturally responsive curriculum and dual language classrooms that have curriculum in multiple languages, Spanish, Somali, Chinese, Vietnamese and even French,” says Chappelle. “We also provide American Sign Language (ASL), so it is super exciting for us as a city to provide this opportunity for our families and scholars.”

        Under the Family Education and Preschool Promise Levy, tuition for a majority of the families enrolled in the program is free. For higher earning families a sliding scale is used, but throughout, all families enrolled through a lottery system, are covered by some sort of subsidy.

        According to DEEL officials, “seventy-four to eighty percent of SPP families over the entire eight-year tenure of the program are tuition free. The other twenty to twenty-five percent, those families making $150,000.00 or more are providing with tuition subsidies.”

        Across the region, SPP providers are expanding existing providers as well as adding new ones for the upcoming year. For example, SPS has added Leschi as a new location, and Tiny Tots is a new provider in South Seattle off of Othello. West Seattle, Magnolia, and the University District are expanding preexisting facilities to accommodate the growth and success.

        “In West Seattle, Magnolia, South Seattle for example, we have grown,” says Chappelle. “In West Seattle we’ve included the Refugee/Immigrant Family Center, so yes, we have grown by establishing new location within the Seattle public schools as well as new outsourced providers and expanded existing programs.”

        According to Chappelle, the Seattle Preschool Program is second to none in terms of providing early education to young scholars.

        “We know that there is mounds of research that talks about the impact of having access to high quality early learning and we want our families to take advantage of it,” says Chappelle. “We want our family’s children to flourish in life and it starts with DEEL but ultimately starts with parents enrolling their children in our preschool program. So, we want them to apply and make sure that our families have access.”

The post Data Shows That Seattle’s Preschool Program Is A Wise Investment appeared first on The Seattle Medium.