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Seattle Preschool Program expands

Photo by Robert Daly, Caiaimage

Seattle’s subsidized preschool program expands

Apply now for Seattle Preschool Program

Nearly 2,500 preschoolers will head to class next year thanks to a 16-classroom expansion at the Seattle Preschool Program (SPP). The addition, announced by Mayor Bruce Harrell this week, creates 279 new seats for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“Providing affordable and high-quality education programs for our city’s kids ensures they are set up for success as they embark on their academic journey,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell in a release on Monday. “By continuing to invest in more Seattle Preschool Program classrooms with inclusive curriculum and dedicated educators, we will reach even more families next school year.

Open to all

“I invite all Seattle families with 3-and 4-year-old children to apply today,” Harrell said, “so that our city’s young learners are on the path to a bright future.”

“Our commitment through programs like the Seattle Preschool Program is that every child, every neighborhood in our city can access education and opportunities to build the future that they deserve — that they have a right to,” he added.

The Seattle Preschool Program was created to equal the school readiness playing field for all students, especially BIPOC children, kids from marginalized communities, in foster care, or whose families are experiencing homelessness.

Data on readiness

State school readiness data indicates that BIPOC children enter schools enter school at lower readiness levels than Asian and white and Asian students. According to the Mayor’s Office, in 2021-2022, 77% of SPP participants were identified as Black, Indigenous, or people of color (BIPOC), compared to 53% BIPOC for the overall SPS kindergarten population, and 41% were from immigrant and refugee backgrounds compared to 16% of SPS kindergarteners.

“We know that early learning is critical to the long-term academic and social success for all children,” said Seattle Councilmember Maritza Rivera, chair of the council’s Libraries, Education and Neighborhoods Committee. “This is why SPP is such an important part of the City’s investments in education via the Families and Education Levy.  SPP investments help children enter elementary school, kindergarten ready, with the tools they need to learn, grow, and flourish.”

Seattle Preschool Program expands

Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell, center, visits a Seattle Preschool Program classroom. Photo courtesy Seattle Office of the Mayor

Eliminating barriers

SPP uses a sliding scale for tuition. Most families qualify for free or reduced tuition, with a priority to eliminate cost barriers, especially for children experiencing homelessness, in foster care, or in kinship care. A high percentage of families in the program—nearly 70%—do not pay tuition for the city program which launched in 2015. Costs are based on household income and family size.

“Bringing affordable preschool education to Seattle families is vital for our region. A lot of families are still recuperating from the economic hardships of the pandemic, an increase in the cost of living and putting food on the table,” Dwane Chappelle, director of thecity’s Department of Education and Early Learning said in the announcement. “If we can remove one less burden like supporting their child’s education through tuition assistance, then we are happy to provide an investment that will set up students for success especially in their formative years of life.”

Three of this year’s expansion classrooms, operated by Seattle Public Schools, will provide SPP Plus programming, an inclusive model that joins children with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and typically developing children. Thirty-four classrooms operated by SPS and the University of Washington offer SPP Plus programming.

A program with a proven record

According to the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (WaKIDS) results, 74% of 2023-24 Seattle Public School kindergarteners met crucial benchmarks of social, emotional, cognitive, literacy, language, physical, and mathematics skills, the highest since data collection began in 2015.

The 2022 Education Northwest SPP Evaluation found that Black, Asian, and English Language Learners were more likely to meet kindergartner readiness goals if they had participated in SPP.

New classroom locations

The 16 new Seattle Preschool Program classrooms for the 2024-2025 school year are as follows:

School Location
Community School of West Seattle Delridge
First Place Preschool Doreen Cato Central District
Hearing, Speech and Deaf Center – Rosen Preschool Madison Valley
Primm ABC Childcare Columbia City
Sound Child Care Solutions – Interlaken Preschool at Stevens Elementary School Capitol Hill
Seattle Institute for Early Child Development – Hilltop Children’s Center Downtown Downtown
Seattle Institute for Early Child Development – Hilltop Children’s Center Fremont Fremont
Seattle Institute for Early Child Development – Hilltop Children’s Center Queen Anne Queen Anne
Seattle Public Schools – John Hay Elementary School Queen Anne
Seattle Public Schools – Leschi Elementary School Leschi
Seed of Life Center for Early Learning at Orca K-8 Columbia City
Seed of Life Center for Early Learning – The Metropole Building Downtown
Tiny Tots at Helen Hicks Rainier Valley
West African Community Council Hillman City
YMCA Early Education Center at West Seattle Westwood

Apply

“We are on a mission to enroll as many children as possible into our Seattle Preschool Program, and we are committed, confident, and concentrated in reaching our FEPP Levy goal of serving 2,500 children by 2026,” said Early Learning Division Director Leilani Dela Cruz in a release.

Learn more about SPP sites and begin the application process at seattle.gov/applySPP.  Applications are available in English, Amharic, Chinese, Oromo, Somali, Spanish, Tigrinya, and Vietnamese. Families who need language assistance to complete the application process can contact DEEL at 206-386-1050 or email preschool@seattle.gov. 

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