King County voters are being asked to renew the Best Starts for Kids levy. If approved, it would raise close to $900 million over the next six years to improve access to child care and other services for children and families in the county.
The levy is a renewal of a funding initiative originally approved by voters in 2015. Ballots have been mailed and are due back Aug. 3.
The program’s website states this ambitious goal: “Best Starts for Kids builds on the strengths of families and communities so that babies are born healthy, children thrive and establish a strong foundation for life, and young people grow into happy, healthy adults.”
Best Starts for Kids: What it does
The program is run through the county’s department of Community and Human Services. In 2019 it invested $83.9 million in 281 community partners and 483 programs to serve children and families. Here’s a rough breakdown of how funds would be spent:
22.5%: Youth and Family Homelessness Prevention Initiative and child care initiatives.
Of the remaining 77.5%: Half would support programs for children aged prenatal through 5; 37% percent would be directed to services for children, youth and young adults 5 through 24; 8% goes to Communities of Opportunity, public-private partnerships to create safe, healthy and thriving communities for children and families; 5% of levy revenues would fund evaluation. (Extensive data about programs and outcomes is available to the public.) See the newsy Best Starts Blog for more about programs and achievements.
Councilmember Joe McDermott, prime sponsor of the legislation to put the renewal on the August ballot, said in April, “Over the past five years, Best Starts for Kids has been developed and driven by families, community members and community organizations into an overwhelming success.”
Added Council Chairperson Claudia Balducci: “As we emerge out of the pandemic, it’s more critical than ever that we invest in the physical and mental health of our children. I am pleased that Council has unanimously passed legislation giving voters the opportunity to consider a levy that continues and builds upon investments that serve children and families in communities across King County.”
However, The Seattle Times recently raised questions about how results from levy expenditures were being reported.
Originally published April 21, 2021